It took them awhile. More than a half, in fact.
But the Mount Vernon Knights boys basketball team eventually looked at least a little like the defending state AA champions here Tuesday, defeating White Plains 72-53.
The Knights proved big on the boards, hauling down 40 rebounds, 15 on the offensive side.
The Knights’ 6-foot-3 forward Brandon Martin led all scorers with 15 points.
But the game was hardly the cakewalk some might have envisioned.
The Knights entered the game at 6-1, the loss coming with Martin sidelined by a one-game suspension.
White Plains had won just two of its 10 games.
But while Mount Vernon at one point scored five points off three consecutive steals in the second quarter — Martin, Jamal Lewis and Josh Doughty picking the Tigers’ pockets — White Plains was very much in the game at the half, trailing just 33-21.
It could have been much worse except for the Knights’ foul shooting (4 for 15 at the half, 16 for 34 overall), which Knights coach Bob Cimmino later termed “embarrassing.”
While Cimmino found some bright spots, including the energized play of subs Yhanni Bartley (eight points) and Jalen David (11 points), he criticized his team’s approach to the game.
“We just thought that some magic talent was going to gather to us and lead us to a magical victory,” he said, criticizing his team in part for turning the ball over.
Despite losing 6-foot-5 center Nate Hudson (four points) to fouls late in the third quarter, White Plains was still hanging in, behind 46-32 entering the fourth.
But Doughty’s baseline 3-pointer (he had nine points) and Lewis’ conversion (11 points) of his offensive rebound put the Knights up 51-32.
With the quarter not yet half over, White Plains lost Robby Lorden, who was held to two points, to his fifth personal.
When the Tigers’ go-to guard, Mike DeMello, hit his first field goal, a long 3 with 3:18 left, the game was essentially over, the Knights up by 21.
White Plains was led by Marshon Morris, who had 12 points, 10 coming from the free-throw line.
Martin pointed to the Knights’ success in attacking the Tigers’ zone defense in the second half as key to the win.
“As a team we’re getting there. We’re bonding together and trying to win states,” he said.
DeMello, whose five points included two fourth-quarter free-throws, didn’t appear overly impressed with Mount Vernon, explaining that with fewer turnovers and fouls it could have been a different outcome.
Setting up an interesting dynamic for their next meeting, he said of Mount Vernon and of its reputation, “Obviously, we could play with them. I believe it’s all hype.”