By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SENECA, Mo. – The Mt. Vernon girls rolled Seneca 55-28 Saturday night to win the Class 3 District 12 championship and claim their third-straight district title.
The win marked the fourth time in five games the Mountaineers had played at Seneca High School – three district games and a Big 8 crossover – and the third time this season Mt. Vernon defeated Seneca on its home court.
“We kind of felt like home,” Mt. Vernon coach Grant Berendt said. “We felt comfortable on this court.”
Top-seeded Mt. Vernon, which improved to 25-7 with the win, beat Seneca 58-24 on January 7 and 61-33 on February 11. Saturday’s contest followed a similar formula.
Mt. Vernon scored the first seven points of the game and went ahead by double digits in the second quarter when senior Lyndsey Hood’s three pointer made it 18-6. Senior Ashlyn McCanless added a free throw in the final minute of the half to give the Mountaineers a 19-6 lead at the break.
Defense was the story of the first half for Mt. Vernon, which helped force 11 Seneca turnovers in the first two quarters alone.
“We were slow to get going offensively,” Berendt said. “Defensively I thought we did an awesome job. We’ve been doing a really good job as of late with our half court D. I felt like Seneca in the first half controlled the tempo of the game and we didn’t get out in transition like we typically do. We struggled to get our offensive stuff going. I felt we kind of wore them down with some pressure and we got some things rolling.”
Seneca coach Drew Schulte said turnovers have plagued his team against Mt. Vernon.
“They’re so quick,” he said. “We knew what was going to happen, it’s just tough. You can’t simulate that kind of pressure in practice. We knew from the last two games what we needed to do to play with them and turnovers was one. We just had too many.”
Still, Seneca was in the game in the second half. A three pointer by senior Chaney Platner and a basket by senior Mekaylee Beard helped cut it to nine points at 22-13 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
Mt. Vernon’s McCanless got a steal and scored, though, and the Indians turned it over on four of their next five possessions, allowing the Mountaineers to double up the score at 32-16.
Mt. Vernon senior Caitlin Hicks added four points in the final 39 seconds of the third to make it 38-19.
“I felt like at that nine-point mark I could start to hear (the crowd) behind me,” Berendt said. “If we wouldn’t have done our job then the crowd would have been a factor in this game.”
“They adjusted well after that,” Schulte said. “We tried to throw everything we had at them. They’re well coached. That’s one of the reasons they’re district champions. We tried to find all kinds of ways and they did a good job adjusting.”
Mt. Vernon’s lead grew to 29 points when sophomore Lacy Stokes made two free throws to make it 51-22 with 2:50 left in the game. Sophomore Ellie Johnston added two more in the final minute to make it 29 again.
Hicks scored 21 for Mt. Vernon, and Stokes and senior Cameron Call each added 10.
Beard led Seneca with nine points.
Now Mt. Vernon turns its attention to powerhouse Strafford, which improved to 29-0 with a 75-43 win over Fair Grove in the District 11 championship. Wednesday’s sectional will be played at 7:45 p.m. in Willard.