Win or lose, the Mississinewa Indians are a team that comes to battle every night they touch the hardwood.
They work diligently on offense to find the best shot, and they are tenacious on defense, consistently getting into passing lanes and creating turnovers. And most importantly, their younger players, forced into more prominent roles because of injuries, have begun to find their niche.
However, against Mount Vernon on Thursday, the Marauders’ tremendous three-point shooting, combined with a plethora of turnovers by the Indians, proved too much to overcome in a 68-31 defeat at Fredenberger Court on Thursday night.
“This is a really good team. They are really well-coached.” Mississinewa Head Coach Laura Friday said. “This is the type of team we want to play because we aspire to be this type of team. I’m really proud of our girls’ effort. They played hard. I know some things didn’t go our way tonight, but one of our goals today was to compete for four quarters, and I felt like we did that.”
Mount Vernon scored the opening 12 points of the contest, leading from the onset. A basket in the paint from Karmen Swindall and a three from Alayna Webb helped cut the Indians’ deficit to seven, but a Mount Vernon three put the Marauders back up by 10. The Marauders led by double-digits the rest of the way.
Mount Vernon’s stout shooting, combined with their doggedness on defense, helped them pull away as the contest progressed. After taking a 34-17 lead at halftime, the Marauders increased their advantage to 30 points at the end of the third before eventually securing the 37-point victory.
The Marauders shot the lights out all evening, finishing 25-of-44 from the floor and a scorching 15-of-26 from beyond the arc. Of their 10 players who saw game action, seven of them recorded at least one triple.
Mount Vernon used screens effectively to create open looks on the perimeter, but even when the Indians did defend them close, they continued to knock their shots down.
“They did the same thing to us last year,” Friday said. “We knew they all can shoot threes. Our gameplan was to close out tight to everybody, but when you get caught on a couple screens, or you are not communicating, you lose players and they get wide open shots.”
While the Marauders’ offense was humming, the Indians struggled to find their rhythm, turning the ball over 25 times even though Mount Vernon played mostly half-court defense. With the loss of Darah Watson in the season, the Indians lost not only one of their best scorers, but one of their premier ballhandlers and passers. Players like Kaiyah Jones, Katy Hosier, and Mia Catey have filled in admirably, but the turnovers have piled up in recent contests, and it’s an area that Friday knows needs to be cleaned up going forward.
“We work on ballhandling all the time. They can dribble the basketball. They can pass the basketball,” Friday said. “It’s more of a confidence thing, but we’ll get there.”
Despite the loss, however, there were still many positives, particularly the play of Jones and fellow junior Kate Ramey. As the season has progressed, Jones has gotten more and more comfortable as a starter, beginning to find her shot as well as develop into an excellent defender. She finished with seven points, and showcased active hands on the defensive end all evening.
“This is her first year really playing huge minutes in the varsity game,” Friday said. “She is getting used to handling the ball. She is getting used to being aggressive towards the basket. I think she is doing a really great job coming into her varsity role.”
While she only scored two points, Ramey showcased her toughness and grit throughout the contest, diving after loose balls, going up for every rebound, and making the most of her opportunity every time she was on the floor.
“She’s our fighter,” Friday said. “She rips the ball out of people’s hands. She wants to get every rebound. She’s our tough kid, and we really need that in our program. She is coming into her role a little bit more.”
Catey led the Indians with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Webb put together a solid, all-around performance with nine points, two rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
Mississinewa will look to get back on track this coming Tuesday when they face off against longtime rival Marion.
“We are just looking forward to our next game,” Friday said. “We aren’t worried about this game. We aren’t going to dwell on it. We are going to move on and focus on our next opponent.”