By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Mt. Vernon Lady Mountaineers (19-5) were on a mission Thursday night when they squared off against the Springfield Catholic Fightin Irish (4-17).
The mission was to defeat Catholic and walk off the floor with this year’s Big 8 East conference title.
The Mountaineers, riding Ellie Johnson’s 19-point night, rolled over the Fightin Irish 48-31 and are Big 8 East Conference Champions.
Winning this year’s conference title was an impressive feat for the Lady Mountaineers who lost the services of senior first-team all-conference players Cameron Call and Caitlin Hicks from last year’s 25-5 squad.
Mt. Vernon returned only one starter, junior Lacy Stokes, off last year’s team.
“I’m extremely proud of this group of young ladies,” said head coach Grant Berendt. “We started out the season with a lot of inexperienced kids. It’s unbelievable just how far they’ve come in a relatively short period of time. To get to watch them accomplish something so special, like winning tonight’s Big 8 East conference title, is really a great feeling.”
“This was a big win for us. Last year we let the conference title get away from us, losing a very close ballgame to Logan-Rogersville,” said Stokes. “So it was a great feeling to be able to redeem ourselves by winning the Big 8 East title tonight with a team that nobody thought could do it.”
Mt. Vernon, whose only conference loss of the year came against Hollister (55-49) on Jan. 6, entered Thursday night’s contest tied with Marshfield at 4-1 for the Big 8 East lead. Marshfield lost to Rogersville on Thursday, so the Mountaineers were able to stand alone atop the final Big 8 East standings.
The Mountaineers jumped out in front of the Irish 9-3 after opening quarter play and then stretched their lead to 23-8 by half-time.
Mt. Vernon pushed their lead on up to 38-16 through three quarters of play en route to closing the Irish out at 48-31.
Johnson, with 19 points led the Lady Mountaineer effort. Also having big nights were Cameryn Cassity with 13 and Lacy Stokes with 10.
The Irish were led by Ella Lippelman with 13 points. Second on Catholic’s scoresheet was Mallory Wilson with 6.
Although it was a big win for the Lady Mountaineers their season is just beginning to heat up.
“These kids have so much to be proud about,” said coach Berendt. “But after our game I reminded them that as a team we can’t afford to be content. Hopefully we still have a lot more season ahead of us.”
On Monday Mt. Vernon will host Big 8 West Champion Nevada for the overall Big 8 Championship.
“We played them earlier this season over at their place and lost to them by three. They have everybody back from last year and are well coached,” said coach Berendt. “So we’re expecting another tough game from them on Monday. We’re hoping to see a lot of Lady Mountaineer fans in the stands to help out. ”
Box Score 1 2 3 4 F
Catholic 3 5 8 15 31
Mt. Vernon 9 14 15 10 48
Mt. Vernon: 1. Ellie Johnson- 19/2. Cameryn Cassity- 13/3. Lacy Stokes- 10/4. Allie Schubert- 4/5. Jayci Joachim- 2.
Catholic: 1. Ella Lippelman- 13/2. Mallory Wilson- 6/3. Avery Ahlstrand- 4/Avery Swisshelm- 3/4. Kyleigh Pfitzner- 3/5. Elizabeth Killion- 2.