By Derek Shore
Last season was a struggle for Mount Vernon with only six wins and 16 losses, but with a more experienced team back, senior guard Brett Campbell and the Mountaineers are ready to make noise after the Big 8 Conference Opener on Tuesday night.
“I thought (tonight’s win) was a good opportunity for us to come in and make a statement that we’re here to win conference,” said Campbell, who posted a game-high 25 points on the night. “Thought this was a good opener for us, a test.”
Campbell wasn’t alone in his production though as Mount Vernon received double-digit scoring from their backcourt in Jarrett Massie (14 points) and Ty Boswell (11 points), helping to topple the Cassville Wildcats, 70-54.
“Those three are our leading scorers night in and night out,” Mountaineers head coach Mike Ray said. “They just were really consistent. The good thing is they shared the ball. For most of the game, they took good shots. They’re talented guys. When they take good shots and we play as a team, they’re going to be productive for us.”
To open the game, Cassville came out on an electric 7-3 run in the first couple of minutes of the contest, but that was as expected for Mount Vernon.
“We knew Cassville was going to come out fired up to play the first conference game,” Ray said. “They did and came out on fire. Our kids held their composure and kept battling one possession at a time. Fortunately, we were able to make some shots there early. I know Brett Campbell got off to a really good start and that got us going.”
After that point, the Mountaineers would not trail for the rest of the game, finishing the first quarter of play on a 20-6 run with Campbell accounting for nine of those points, including a conventional three-point play.
“When you’re that big of an athlete, you’ve got the skill to shoot it, and get to the rim and finish at the rim, you can say you’re going to take away things but it’s a lot harder on the floor,” Cassville head coach Barrett Milleson said of Campbell. “I think one of the things that made them better was when all of your pieces are good and can play the game, there’s going to be one guy that’s going to have the hot hand.
“Credit to that kid. He played extremely well.”
With a double-digit held the rest of the night, Campbell finished off the Wildcats by gashing through their zone defense for the reverse layup, giving Mount Vernon their largest lead at 47-28 with 3:14 left in the 3rd.
As time winded down in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers inserted their bench as they were en route to a 70-54 victory.
Mount Vernon hopes this will be the start of their success in conference play after a tough nonconference schedule.
“We’ve had a very tough schedule for a Class 3 school,” Ray said. “We have to show up and play every night because we aren’t that talented. We have seen a lot of different styles of play. I think (the beefed schedule) helps us in the long-run.”
As far as the Wildcats, they were led by senior forward Collin Pearman, who contributed 15 points in scoring, but it was the underclassman that stepped up in wake of ankle injuries to starters Ethan Hoppes and Skylar Wolf.
“Losing two starters early, you’re just not going to be as good that night,” Milleson said. “I will say the biggest positive that we drew from it, I got kids that continued to step up in roles. Role-players who might not get very many minutes. This was D.J. White’s first varsity action, a freshman who had 11 points off the bench. He scored in big moments.
“He’s a great athlete, who’s going to be a great player for many years to come.”
For Cassville, it’s a matter of getting healthy as they progress into conference play.
“The theme right now is getting healthy,” the Wildcats coach said. “Trey Dalton just came back from an ankle (injury) not even two weeks ago and was out for a month. Then I had two kids go down, but I think they’ll be short injuries. Other than that, I think we’re scoring the ball well.
“When we’re all healthy and locked in, we play good defense. We’re really kind of a defensive-first team even though we shoot it a lot. We really take pride on the defensive end. I’d loved to see us continue to rebound the ball. Continue to do that as the main focal point.
“If we can get healthy and polish up the little things, I think we can be a real threat in the conference.”
Next, Mount Vernon (5-7) welcomes East Newton at home on Friday night, while Cassville (7-6) will host Riverton High School (KS) on the same night as well.
Mount Vernon 70, Cassville 54
Mount Vernon: 23-15-20-12
Mount Vernon: Boswell, 11; Fenton, 4; Miller, 3; Massie, 14; Campbell, 25; Cornell, 2; Bushman, 9
Cassville: Dalton, 11; Wilson, 1; Hoppes, 7; Christy, 9; Pearman, 15; White, 11