MISHAWAKA — It was a moment fit for a king at the Penn Palace.
Seconds after the final horn sounded in 4A No. 2 Penn’s 66-52 win over 3A No. 1 Mishawaka Marian Friday night, the rowdy Kingsmen student section spilled onto the court to engulf their hero.
In the middle of the madness was the man who led the Kingsmen (12-1, 5-0 NIC) to victory, senior guard Markus Burton. But you wouldn’t have known it until he rose above on the shoulders of a fellow student to a serenade of “M-V-P” chants.
There was no doubt that this was his castle, his kingdom.
And on this Friday night he desrved every second of it, moving to the top of Penn’s record books, then willing the Kingsmen to their first win over the Knights in nine seasons.
Burton, who finished with a game-high 32 points, became the program’s all-time scoring leader, surpassing Noah Applegate’s record of 1,709 career points in the first half.
“I was just playing, trying to get the win, not keeping track of my points,” Burton said afterward. “When they told me in the locker room (at halftime) I was really happy.”
And it showed in the third quarter as he came out and scored Penn’s first nine points of the second half, ballooning a nine-point halftime lead into double-digits. The Kingsmen’s win was a complete team effort, seven scorers combining to shoot 51% from the floor, but Burton, as he has been all season, was the catalyst.
Burton worked to become a scoring machine
Burton has a killer mentality few in this state can replicate. And the 4,500 spectators inside the sold out gymnasium off of Bittersweet witnessed why the senior is a leading candidate to become the first Mr. Basketball honoree in the South Bend area since LaSalle’s David Magley in 1978.
But a career that will go down as one of the best in Northern Indiana Conference history didn’t always look that way. It wasn’t until last year when Burton began garnering attention from college coaches. He eventually choose nearby Notre Dame where he is signed to play next season.
“It was a process,” the senior said of his basketball ascent. “My freshman and sophomore year weren’t too good. Then junior year I had that big shot up. And this year I’m playing pretty well. I’m just glad I’m doing it.
The aspects of Burton’s game that got the next level interested was on full display Friday against the Knights.
Burton was too quick for Marian’s defense to stay in front of him. He was able to finish through contact at the net and scored from range, connecting on 3-of-5 shots from behind the arc.
In the instances the Knights (14-2, 3-1 NIC) did contain him, Burton’s teammates stepped in for support.
Trey Miller scored 11 big points off the bench and Penn’s other four starters combined for 17.
Marian was led by Deaglan Sullivan’s 15 points. Deuce Owens and Jackson Price, also scored in double figures for the Knights, but the main difference was Burton on the other team.
“I thought our defense was very good throughout the enitre contest,” Penn head coach Al Rhodes said. “Overall we were extremely aggressive and tried to play team defense and were successful in doing that.
“We are midseason for us and feel like we still have a lot of areas we can improve.”
State title contenders?
Behind Burton’s memorable career is a desire to win.
To win an NIC title, which the Kingsmen won a share of last year and who are now the clear front-runners heading into the final five weeks of the regular-season.
And to win its first ever boy’s state title, which is looking more and more realistic.
The points record? Meh, not that important to Burton. The prize at the end of his final high school season has been his goal.
“We went down to Southport and beat Zionsville,” Rhodes said. “We played (4A No. 1) Ben Davis tough at the Hall of Fame tournament. They should feel like they can compete with anyone.”
As long as No. 3 is still in uniform, that won’t change.
Penn 66, Mishawaka Marian 52
Penn 66: Markus Burton 32, Trey Miller 11, Joe Smith 8, Dominic Bonner 6, Joey Garwood 5, Dylan Derda 2, Josh Gatete 2.
Mishawaka Marian 52: Deaglan Sullivan 15, Jackson Price 11, Deuce Owens 10, Dar’e’on Thornton 7, Elias Norgaard 7, Ben Warnell 2.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Indiana High school basketball: Burton’s 32 helps No. 2 Penn beat No. 1 Marian