MOUNT VERNON — They play for three championships in the Wamac Conference. Mount Vernon got two of them Tuesday night.
A 10-0 run late in the third quarter put the Mustangs over the top multiple ways in a 71-62 win over Marion at a loud Mount Vernon gym.
That’s an East Division title for Class 3A’s fourth-ranked team. It’s also an overall league championship, as Mount Vernon has clinched a better league record than Clear Creek Amana and Center Point-Urbana, which are still dueling for West Division honors.
“We worked really hard for that one,” said Coach Ed Timm. “This is a year where, I mean, it was a bear. You just look at the rankings and how many (Wamac) teams have been rated ... It’s just a dogfight. We lost two games early, then we’ve really hit our stride late. We have been playing really well the last two weeks.”
With the exception of a four-day stretch in mid-January, these Mustangs (17-2) have been dead solid perfect. That’s when Mount Vernon lost both of its games: one to fifth-ranked Marion (15-4) and the other to Class 2A seventh-ranked Dyersville Beckman.
This was an eighth straight victory for a team that is playing high quality basketball.
“It is incredible,” said Mount Vernon’s Noah Erickson, after he and his teammates and coaches hoisted the first-place trophy and cut down both nets in celebration. “Our conference is so tough, and we just battled throughout the season. To play in front of this crowd, on this night, with these fans, tearing down the nets, it’s just unbelievable.”
Erickson was unbelieveable in a 27-point performance that included making all five of his free throws and 11 of his 14 field-goal attempts. The senior forward scored inside with a plethora of drives, as well as in transition.
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Marion did a commendable job in holding down leading scorer Keaton Kutcher (held to no 3-pointers and 14 points, six under his average), but Erickson got away.
“My teammates trusted in me,” he said. “They face guarded Keaton a lot, so that gave me a few more opportunities to score than I usually would.”
The teams were tied at halftime, 30-30, with Erickson scoring on a drive and after a steal to put MV up for what turned out to be good. The Mustangs led by as many as 13 in the second half.
Gage Franck, Will Henricksen and Brayson Laube led Marion with 16 points apiece. This was a third straight loss for the Indians, who were ranked No. 1 in 3A at the start of last week.
Both of these teams are expected to be top seeds in their respective substates. Brackets are expected to be released Wednesday by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
“Whenever I’ve done this, I told the kids this, we never get better gradually,” Timm said. “It’s like we always take a (big) jump. I’ve never been able to understand it, and every year it happens. We kind of hit a plateau, and then we just take a jump. We get significantly better in, like, one game. The guys start playing together better, we start figuring some things out. So within the last three weeks, we have taken one significant jump on offense and one significant jump on defense. Everything clicks.”
AT MOUNT VERNON
MARION (62): Connor Whalen 3-7 2-5 8, Gage Franck 7-15 0-0 16, Will Henricksen 6-13 0-1 16, Jaffer Murphy 2-9 1-2 6, Brayson Laube 4-12 4-4 16, Garret Wagner 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas Unsen 0-0 0-0 0, Cael Hodges 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Paulsen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 7-11 62.
MOUNT VERNON (71): Nolan Brand 2-6 4-6 8, Derek Jordan 2-5 3-4 7, Noah Erickson 11-14 5-5 27, Keaton Kutcher 4-15 6-6 14, Collin Swantz 0-2 0-0 0, Kaleb Brand 1-1 3-4 6, Jayden Meeker 3-6 1-2 9, Kode Banwart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 22-27 71.
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Halftime — Marion 30, Mount Vernon 30. 3-point goals — Marion 11-28 (Franck 2-5, Henricksen 4-7, Murphy 1-5, Laube 4-10, Hodges 0-1), Mount Vernon 3-14 (Kutcher 0-7, Swantz 0-2, K. Brand 1-1, Meeker 2-4). Rebounds — Marion 30 (Whalen, Franck 9), Mount Vernon 35 (Jordan 11). Total fouls — Marion 20, Mount Vernon 12. Fouled out — Henricksen. Turnovers — Marion 10, Mount Vernon 8.
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