For a Mount Vernon team still in pursuit of its potential, playing four games in five days to end the regular season might be a positive. The first of those came Thursday against rival New Rochelle, a team that forced the Knights to rally in the final minutes just over a week ago.
In the rematch, Mount Vernon finally established momentum late. If the Knights can sustain it, they can point to the 16 steals that led to a comfortable 63-45 victory.
“I was proud of our pressure. I think it relaxed us a little bit and let us get in a flow and run the court,” Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino said. “It kind of set the tempo. It slowed them down early and then it bothered them a lot in the second half.”
So did Brandon Martin, who notched a game-high 20 points, including a dunk in traffic to finalize a fast break that started when fellow senior Judah Alexander retreated for an emphatic block of New Rochelle star Derek Dorn.
Martin, a rugged forward who has been in and out of foul trouble all season, had also starred on Tuesday against Scarsdale, scoring 34 points in three quarters of work thanks to an uncharacteristic five 3-pointers.
“We have a lot of leaders on this team,” said Martin, who also grabbed six rebounds. “Whoever wants to lead this team, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to win.”
“The challenge is all his,” Cimmino noted. “It’s a challenge for him to keep his mental focus. When he does, he’s very tough and we’re a lot better.”
Despite a 10-0 run in the first quarter, the Knights (13-1) led just 22-18 at the break. Dorn, senior Alex Tuci and junior Justin Alleyne helped even the score at 18 as the Huguenots (5-10) dictated the tempo. But that quickly changed as Mount Vernon built its lead to double digits in the third quarter on the back of New Rochelle turnovers.
Akeem Krubally contributed 13 points, six rebounds and five steals for the Knights, but the senior point guard believes his team still has strides to make.
“We’re not as good as we played in Hawaii to me, but we can get there,” Krubally said. “We just have to keep communicating.”