For the past week, Mount Vernon coach Skip Brock has focused his teachings on the defensive end of the floor.
And the effect was evident on Wednesday.
The Mountaineers’ defense was a big key, allowing just five points in the second quarter, as Mount Vernon beat Fair Grove, 67-53, in the Blue Division first round on Wednesday night at Hammons Student Center.
“Our players have not been happy with the way we’ve been playing defensively,” Brock said. “So we’ve made a conscious effort to really focus on that and I thought overall our defense was as good as it’s been all year.”
Mount Vernon (7-3) scored the first 11 points of the second quarter, taking a 28-17 lead on a bucket by sophomore Chandler Myers with 2:24 left in the first half.
After a field goal by Fair Grove senior Deric Link, the Mountaineers continued their run, scoring the next seven points to take a 35-19 lead with 37 seconds left in the half.
“We kind of live by the statement that great defense is going to make our offense work well and I think that’s what helped us lock them down to just five points,” Myers said. “That was huge for us, because that got their momentum down.”
Fair Grove outscored Mount Vernon by one point in the third quarter, but only managed to cut the lead to 44-32 by the end of the period.
An 8-2 run by the Eagles at the start of the fourth quarter narrowed the deficit to six points (46-40), when Mount Vernon put together another big run.
Two baskets from senior Shane Williams and two more field goals (including a 3-pointer) from sophomore Luke Call capped a 10-0 run that gave Mount Vernon a 56-40 lead with 3:57 left in the game.
“We have so many guys who can score,” Williams said.
“On a different night, different guys step up, so my job is to make stuff flow from the point.”
Fair Grove sent the Mountaineers to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter in an attempt to narrow the deficit, but Mount Vernon converted on 8 of 14 shots from the stripe in the quarter.
“One of the big differences in the game was the fact that we shot 22 free throws and they shot three,” Brock said. “One measuring stick for us is make more free throws than our opponent attempts and when you do that the percentages improve as far as a chance to win.”
Williams finished with 22 points and eight rebounds and made 5 of 8 from the free -throw line.
“Shane is our ball handler and he’s a great passer,” Myers said of Williams.
“He can get to the lane anytime and he’s just a great all-around basketball player.”
Myers had a game-high 23 points, along with eight boards and two blocks for Mount Vernon.
“He’s an amazing player and he’s a freak athlete and he brings a lot to our team,” Williams said.
“His post presence does wonders for our team.”
Senior Brock Derrick led the Eagles with 19 points and nine rebounds and Link added 16 points and six boards.