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When it comes to the New Rochelle vs. Mount Vernon basketball rivalry, there are a million different factors that impact the final result. It can be the talent, the fans, “ghosts” of years past, or it can come down to what most basketball games come down to: turnovers and rebounding.
Mount Vernon outrebounded New Rochelle and dominated the turnover battle en route to a 74-56 victory on Thursday at New Rochelle High School.
“We took care of the basketball today,” Mt. Vernon coach Bob Cimmino said. “That’s been a struggle for us and today we did that. They listened.”
Mount Vernon outscored New Rochelle 23-11 in the decisive second quarter, clamping down on defense and dominating the glass. Jamal Lewis and Joshua Doughty each finished with four steals to break the game open.
“We pride ourselves on our defense and we focused on rebounding today,” Lewis said. “We’re in the gym three days a week and we always play strong.”
Lewis had a game-high 18 points for the Knights and was one of five players who finished with five or more rebounds.
“We needed to box out more," New Rochelle coach Rasaun Young said. "I told my football players to get tougher in there with them. We can’t just jump with guys who are just as athletic as us.”
Brandon Martin pumped in 15 points for the Knights and had seven rebounds. Jalen David added 14 points and five rebounds.
New Rochelle cut a 20-point lead down to 10 on two occasions but couldn’t make the jump to single digits. Every time New Rochelle made a play, Mount Vernon answered. Huguenots star Joe Clarke hit a basket to cut the deficit to 57-47, but Devonte Banner and Martin continued to rule the boards and opened up the lead again. In the meantime, New Rochelle shot just 9-for-19 from the free throw line and missed some key ones down the stretch.
“The game absolutely could’ve been different if we hit some free throws,” Young said. “If we make one or two and the game is nine points, who knows?"
Doughty, a known scorer, has turned into quite a point guard and leader for the Knights. While he can score 30 at any moment, he doesn’t need to. He had nine points, nine assists, five rebounds, and four steals and many of his big plays were in the fourth quarter.
“I’d like to shoot better than I did today, but I still have to be the leader of this team,” Doughty said. “If we win by 18 points, then I’ve done what I have to do.”
New Rochelle will need to regroup as it travels to Mount Vernon for the second matchup of the two powerhouse programs in the next couple weeks. Clarke led the Huguenots with 16 points and Khalil Edney added 12 points and seven rebounds in the loss. He also had four blocks.
“I liked what I heard in that locker room after the game,” Young said. “It’s the first time guys were holding each other accountable, so hopefully that will translate well for us.”
Email John Malone at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone