If their early results are any indication, the Mustangs appear to be making the transition without missing a beat.
Mount Vernon’s GHSA debut is off to a sterling start with three wins in its first four games in a tough early schedule that features teams from the two highest classifications in the state — AAAAAA and AAAAA.
The Mustangs have achieved their success with practically a different roster from last year’s GISA semifinalists.
With only three players returning from the 2011-12 squad, Mount Vernon’s strong beginning to the season against challenging competition is encouraging for coach Curtis Berry.
“We’ve gotten the season off to a good start,” Berry said. “We didn’t know what to expect, since we’re basically a new team, but our team has come together and played well so far.”
Mount Vernon joins the GHSA ranks after a impressive run in GISA, where it won the Class AAA state championship in 2009 and ’11 and made it to at least the semifinals each of the last four years.
The Mustangs have won at least 30 games each in their last four GISA seasons, going 32-3 a year ago.
Mount Vernon came out strong with a convincing 94-22 victory over crosstown rival and Class AAAAA team North Springs in their season opener, Nov. 16.
They proceeded to beat AAAAAA squad Johns Creek 75-56 the following day and, after losing to Dunwoody of Class AAAAA 64-60 Nov. 19, took a 60-56 win over perennial AAAAA state playoff team Pope last Tuesday.
“We’ve shot the ball really well,” Berry said. “We have a lot more offensive power than in previous years.”
Mount Vernon has had to rely on its perimeter game with a smaller, guard-oriented squad.
“We’re basically starting five guards,” Berry said. “I believe that causes matchup problems for our opponents. What we lack in size, we make up for with our shooting and our quickness.”
Five-foot-4 freshman point guard and co-captain Jarred Harper provides leadership and plenty of scoring, while 6-1 freshman Aidas Kavaliauskas is another potent scorer in the Mustang backcourt.
Six-foot-4 senior guard Arminians Kelmelis is the other co-captain and brings a veteran presence to the otherwise younger lineup, while 6-3 junior guard Drew Anderson and 6-0 junior guard Keon Douglas also play key roles.