A powerhouse in GISA — with state championships in 2009 and ’11 to their credit — the Mustangs spent the 2012-13 season adjusting to the higher level of play in GHSA as they went 16-11 and missed qualifying for the Class A private school tournament.
Mount Vernon appears to be well adjusted to GHSA basketball this season with a 14-1 overall record and 4-0 mark in Region 5A.
“Last year … we were getting to feel everybody out,” Mount Vernon coach Curtis Berry said. “Now, we have a better feel for the other teams, what they’re doing and I think our team is better than we were last year.”
The Mustangs have prospered while playing a challenging schedule that includes a number of higher-classification teams.
“We played some of the big schools around here — Riverwood, Chamblee, Sequoyah, Cambridge, Decatur — a lot of schools who are larger in classification than we are, and we’ve been able to win with our structure and our defense,” Berry said. “We’ve been able to hang in and win some ball games.”
Defense has certainly played a key role in Mount Vernon’s success, with the Mustangs giving up an average of only 43 points a game.
“Defensively, we’re really quick,” Berry said. “We try to pressure people. All the guys are out trying to defend and rebound as a team. Most of the teams we have played are a lot bigger than we are, so we’ve been getting some great contributions.”
Point guard Jared Harper has once again been the sparkplug for Mount Vernon, with the 5-foot-8 sophomore co-captain leading the team with about 21 points a game.
“He’s our returning point guard and our leader,” Berry said. “He shoots the ball very, very well from a distance and this is his third year of varsity — he started playing varsity basketball in the eighth grade. He’s a 10th-grader and he’s probably our most experienced player.”
The Mustangs have also been boosted by the addition of 6-5 senior forward Eric Sparks, a transfer from New Manchester in Douglas County who has averaged 12 points and six rebounds a game.
Freshman Greg James, a 6-2 guard, has also provided some scoring as well bringing some surprising rebounding ability for a player his size, while 6-1 freshman guard Darius Perry has also played a key role.
“We go seven or eight players and we’ve been getting a contribution from everybody,” Berry said. “It’s kind of spread out.”