By RICK HAYES email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — Centralia hit 9-of-11 free throws in the final quarter and held off Mt. Vernon 47-46 on Friday night to claim a season sweep of the Rams.
Free throws played an important role down the stretch when the Rams became impatient on offense and clumsy defensively in allowing the Orphans to climb out of a six-point deficit after three quarters.
Mt. Vernon led 33-27 after the third stop, ending the quarter on a 9-0 run. Centralia took its first lead in the second half on a 3-ball from Ryan Obermeier. The Orphans scored the first eight points of the final quarter, including a pair of treys from Jake Wood and Obermeier to grab a 37-33 advantage.
Free throws from Braden Fitzjerrells and Doug Garner cut the lead to two, but Obermeier buried a pair of charity tosses with just under two minutes to go for a 39-35 Orphans lead. Fitzjerrells missed the front end of a double bonus, but nailed the second and then Chase Alcorn missed on a one-and-bonus on the other end of the court with 94 seconds to go.
“What I thought got us beat was we panicked in our offense,” said Rams’ coach Scott Gamber. “From about 1:30 to 1:40 we shot the ball really quick four times in a row when we didn’t need to. There was still plenty of time on the clock for us to get a good shot … all we have to do is work it and get a good shot. You can’t force the issue the way we did.”
The Rams cut the lead to one, 39-38, on two free throws from Dylan Reeves at the 1 1/2 minute mark and De’Ontre Cunningham hit one of two from the line for a 40-38 lead at the 1:27 mark. Obermeier’s two tosses with 65 seconds left gave the Orphans a 42-38 lead and following one free throw each from teammates
Owens, Cunningham and Alcorn, the Orphans held a 45-40 lead with 14.8 seconds left.
Mt. Vernon’s Shakari Hawkins hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at half-court, resulting in the final margin.
Mt. Vernon led 14-10 at the end of the first stop and held a 24-21 advantage at the break. A charging call on Fitzjerrells to start the second half swung momentum to the other bench.
“That was a huge, huge swing in momentum. One, it took took two points off and they ended up hitting two 3’s in a row. More importantly, Fitz had three fouls and can’t be nearly aggressive in attacking the basket. I thought that killed us,” Gamber said.
Fitzjerrells led the Rams with 17 points before fouling out with 2.8 seconds remaining and Hawkins added 15 on Senior Night. Doug Gardner, Ty’Rezz Moore, Jake Pike and Hawkins were recognized prior to the start of the varsity game.
“We made one more play than they did,” said Centralia coach Lee Bennett. “It was a nice atmosphere and a lot of good players out there. They had three guys that scored well. It was a tough game to win. That’s a good win for us for us to win here.”
Centralia improved to 23-4 and Mt. Vernon fell to 15-12. It was the final regular season game for both squads which attracted a sold out Changnon Gym.