NEW ROCHELLE – Following a loss in Albany on Saturday, Mount Vernon’s players held court, disappointed with how their season had started. They all expected more — they expected to be among the best teams in the state — but have fallen far short of their high standards.
The Knights found their pledge to begin anew tested by rival New Rochelle on Monday. The gym was packed and the Huguenots fed off that energy, threatening to hand Mount Vernon another loss. Instead, the Knights seemed to find their focus late and pushed through for a key 62-53 victory they hope can spark a turnaround.
“We’ve definitely faltered and had gut checks,” said coach Bob Cimmino, whose team trailed by as many as 11 points Monday. “It’s been an interesting process. I wanted to see if we came out of the funk. I thought we did, which was pretty nice.”
Junior stars Noah Morgan and Marco Morency led them in a strong fourth quarter and sophomore Jason Douglas-Stanley provided key baskets in the comeback. They also rediscovered a commitment to rebounding after a 12-rebound deficit sent them to halftime trailing 33-28.
Mount Vernon (3-3) ended up edging New Rochelle 38-37 on the glass.
“It was our focus,” Cimmino said of the poor start.
The Knights also forced 26 New Rochelle turnovers, including 17 in the second half. The Huguenots saw a 56-55 lead turn into a six-point deficit on the strength of three straight turnovers down the stretch.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball,” said Huguenots coach Rasaun Young, whose team dropped to 3-4. “Every time you don’t take care of the ball, you’re missing shot opportunities.”
Player of the game: Noah Morgan, Mount Vernon. The junior had 19 points and 10 rebounds, but he was key in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-5 swingman scored 10 of his points in the period, including a 3-pointer to give the Knights a 55-54 lead. They trailed just once the rest of the game.
Turning point: By the latter stages of the third quarter, Mount Vernon had been looking up at New Rochelle for nearly 15 minutes of action. That’s when Douglas-Stanley scored five straight points to push the Knights in front 44-43 with 1:47 left in the third quarter. The birthday boy, who turned 16 on Monday, gave his team its first lead since late in the first quarter.
Mount Vernon didn’t lead the rest of the afternoon, but Douglas-Stanley’s quick burst seemed to have a calming effect.
“It’s so refreshing to make some jump shots,” coach Bob Cimmino said of Douglas-Stanley, who had 11 points making his first varsity start. “He’s very good at it, and we needed it. It was so necessary. It relaxed the whole team and allowed us to play better defense.”
Stat line: Marco Morency had 17 points and six rebounds for Mount Vernon. Jared Young added six points, but he scored two key baskets in the fourth quarter. … Jamel Wallace and Jarrett Haines each had 13 points to lead New Rochelle. Haines also had six assists. … Chris Blades contributed eight points for the Huguenots and made two key 3’s in the third quarter.
Quotable: “We didn’t expect this season to go as it’s gone so far, especially after last year and what we did over the summer. We thought it would have been much easier. After the last loss, we got together as a team. We were hard on ourselves and hard on our team. I think that got us going.”