While much of the hype coming into today’s game seemed to be surrounding New Rochelle’s recent loss to Scarsdale, Mount Vernon wasn’t coming off their best effort either.
Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino was unhappy with his team’s performance in their win against White Plains.
“Just from when it started to when it finished,” said Cimmino of when he was unhappy with the Knights play against the Tigers.
Mount Vernon showed no signs of overlooking the Huguenots, jumping out to a big early lead and, with few exceptions, maintaining it throughout the game.
Pressure proved to be the difference, as the Knights intense press and defense caused New Rochelle into several costly turnovers.
“It was a hard fought game,” said Jamal Lewis (pictured above), who had a game-high 18 points and five rebounds. “We got our heads big at the end and it got too close, but we stayed focused and got the win.”
NEW ROCHELLE Mount Vernon’s Jamal Lewis was ready.
The senior forward had been looking forward to the Knights’ game against rival New Rochelle on Thursday, and while a leg injury kept him out of the starting lineup, Lewis made the most of his minutes when he got them.
Mount Vernon defeated New Rochelle 74-56 in the first of two regular-season games played between the schools that are separated by less than two miles.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” said Lewis, who had a game-high 18 points and five rebounds. “We got a long season ahead, so we can’t let this one win get to our head.”
“It’s a rivalry game,” Mount Vernon’s Brandon Martin said. “You can never take (New Rochelle) for granted. You never know what’s going to happen in a rivalry game.”
The Knights took an early 9-2 lead, but Martin (15 points, four rebounds) took an elbow to the eye going for a rebound, and the swelling forced him to sit out the remainder of the quarter.
The Huguenots gained steam later in the quarter, taking a 12-11 lead with 1:42 left thanks to the play of Joe Clarke, who would finish with 16 points and six rebounds, and Derek Dorn, who would score nine for the game.
“(New Rochelle) being as good athletes as they are, they’re able to get deflections,” Knights coach Bob Cimmino said. “It was kind of like a snowball going downhill. They picked up some speed and we didn’t answer too quickly.”
The start of the second quarter would bring the return of Martin and Mount Vernon’s intensity on defense. The Knights went on a 10-2 run to open the quarter and led 24-14 with four minutes left in the half.
“Defense is going to be the key,” Cimmino said, explaining what he told the team before the start of the second quarter. “We can make mistakes on offense, but if we play our defense we’ll be good.”
The Knights would push their lead as high as 16 late in the half as New Rochelle struggled to handle the pressure Mount Vernon put on the ball. The Knights also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Huguenots 18-9 in the half.
After trailing by as many as 20 at points in the third quarter, New Rochelle showed some life early in the fourth, cutting the Knights’ lead to 10.
“I think we were trying to run them out of the gym,” Cimmino said. “We weren’t capable of doing that. I think we need to take care of the ball.”
Martin credited senior guard Josh Doughty (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) with calming down the squad as the Knights built their lead back up.
Lewis would put the finishing touches on the win with a breakaway dunk in the final minutes that brought the Mount Vernon fans to their feet.
“I had to get out in the open court one time,” Lewis said.