The main ingredient in the Mt. Vernon High School boys basketball team's recipe for success has been tough defense with a sprinkle of offense. Tuesday during the first round of Sectional 26, that is what they served up to Brebeuf Jesuit.
The Marauders' offense scored just enough to get into the fourth quarter with a two-point lead, then they exploded to take a 51-39 victory. Mt. Vernon had 22 points after being held to just six in the third.
The win pits the Marauders against defending Class 3A state champion Guerin Catholic in the sectional semifinals. Guerin ended Mt. Vernon's season in the first round of sectionals last season 35-28.
"They have a great player in the Aaron Brennan and he will be a challenge to stop," Mt. Vernon coach Steve Lynch said. "We are a little bit different. Some of the kids weren't playing last year and the kids that were playing are a year older and a year stronger."
Arlington defeated Howe 62-57 in overtime in the other semifinal and will play Bishop Chatard at 6 p.m. Friday.
It took all the experience the Marauders had to get the win in front of their home crowd Tuesday night.
"We struggled to score in the third quarter," Lynch said. "I thought we played well in the first half. It was two good teams going at it."
In that third quarter, the defense kept the Marauders in the game, holding Brebeuf to nine points.
The game came down to the final couple minutes.
Brebeuf's P.J. Thompson scored three of his game-high 23 points with 2:05 left to draw the Braves to within two points. But the Braves' offense would score just two more points.
"We had to pick it up on a good team that can score the ball," Mt. Vernon junior C.J. Coleman said. "We have been stopping teams all year and that is what it came down to, getting stops in the fourth quarter to help us win."
But Mt. Vernon found the offensive switch and went on a 12-2 run to close out the game. The run was aided by the Braves' attempt to get back in the game by fouling. Mt. Vernon went 10-for-12 from the line during that stretch.
The Marauders are looking to remove the bad taste from the loss last year at the hands of the Golden Eagles.
"It is a terrible taste," Coleman said of the loss. "We are really scoring the ball this year. Last year was a low-scoring game against Guerin. We can get stops and we are scoring the ball better."