Mount Vernon looks to make run behind mix of experience, talented newcomers

Mount Vernon coach and players

Mount Vernon coach Lou Golden, kneeling in the center, talks to his team during the Majors’ victory over Stuart on Wednesday.

The Mount Vernon boys’ basketball team entered Tuesday’s contest against Stuart focused on starting strong. The Majors had experienced early struggles in their first four games and head coach Lou Golden challenged his players to be locked in from the opening tip.

Golden had to be pleased with the results.

A 3-pointer by Jason Lewis and a putback by Elisha Amoako helped Mount Vernon jump out to a 10-0 lead and the Majors held off Stuart for a 58-46 home victory on Dec. 5.

Mount Vernon has room for improvement — Stuart tied the score at 15 by the end of the opening quarter — but Tuesday’s victory moved the Majors’ record to 4-1 and the team has high expectations for the 2017-18 campaign.

Mount Vernon returns seven players from a team that won nine games last year and finished under .500. Despite the loss of leading scorer Alpha Kamara, the Majors are confident this year’s more experienced team will be successful.

“Last year, a lot of the kids were like deer in headlights,” Golden said. “The speed of the game was very fast and so their processing and reactions were very slow. Now, at least seven of them have been there, done that, so they kind of know what to expect. They’ve pretty much seen everything and so it doesn’t phase them as much.”

On Tuesday, Mount Vernon came out on fire from the perimeter, knocking down six 3-pointers in the opening half. Senior guard Lewis knocked down a pair from behind the arc and finished with eight points.

Lewis, Mount Vernon’s second-leading scorer last season, is one of the Majors’ top offensive threats.

“Jason will be one of our go-to guys,” Golden said. “He typically has good matchups, whether they have a smaller guard on him or a bigger guy on him. He typically would have the matchup that we would want. … I trust him with the ball.”

Amoako, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, scored 10 points for Mount Vernon.

“In the beginning of the game, the bigs, we’re supposed to set the tone,” Amoako said. “We did good today, but our defense has to get better.”

Amoako is one of the Majors’ best post players.

“I think we list him at 6-4,” Golden said, “but it’s something when he’s in the post, I swear to goodness, it seems like he expands another five inches. … We want to get him the ball as much as possible.”

TJ Horton finished with seven points for the Majors. Golden is expecting big things from Horton and wants the sophomore forward to play with more aggression.

“I’m waiting for him to come out of his shell,” Golden said.

Senior forward Jonathan Hollingsworth led Mount Vernon with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Anthony Daniels scored nine points.

Mount Vernon will also benefit from a pair of transfers this season. Sophomore point guard Myron Davis transferred from Riverdale Baptist and is expected to be one of the Majors’ top players. Junior point guard Elante Cooke transferred from Pennsylvania and Golden praised his ability at the defensive end.

Cooke finished with six points on Tuesday, including a 3-pointer. Davis did not play for disciplinary reasons, according to Golden.

“To me, in my eyes, [Davis is] probably our best playmaker,” Golden said. “He can get to the rack at will and he pretty much gives it to the bigs on a silver platter, and it’s just up to them to finish.”

Seniors Damien Burke and Josiah Jimboy, and junior Kyree Jones are experienced returning players for the Majors.

Mount Vernon will be back in action on Tuesday, Dec. 12 with a home game against Washington-Lee. The Majors will open Gunston District play on Jan. 9 with a road game against T.C. Williams.

Golden said he expects the Majors to compete with the top teams in the district, which also includes Hayfield, West Potomac and Annandale.

“I really believe we can fight up there with the West Pos and the Hayfields,” Golden said. “I know it’s going to be a lot, but I really feel like these guys have been preparing for this moment and are ready.”

At least one of Golden’s seniors have even higher expectations.

“I would say,” Lewis said, “we’re going for that state ring.”