By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
The Rams held multiple double-digit leads against Marion on Friday night.
None of them lasted, and the Wildcats stunned Mt. Vernon 75-74 in overtime.
“At least seven or eight times, we make one extra play, we win the ball game,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “You could point to a ton of things.”
With 2.9 seconds left in the extra session, Marion's Moe Jackson drove to the basket. As time expired, Mt. Vernon's Gilwan Nelson was called for a foul. Mt. Vernon led74-73 as Jackson stepped to the foul line. The clock read 0.0 and players crowded near the halfcourt line.
Jackson knocked down both shots to give the Wildcats the road South Seven Conference win. Jackson finished with 25 points.
“We're in big trouble,” Gamber said. “We're 0-2 in a conference that's really good, and we lost to Marion on our home floor. And it only gets tougher.”
Mt. Vernon started strong and missed just three shots in the opening quarter to take a 22-13 edge after the first. Shakari Hawkins led the early Rams offense. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Braden Fitzjerrells added 20 for the Rams.
Fitzjerrells pushed the Rams lead to double digits at 35-24 with two minutes left in the half.
“Twice in the first half, we got double-digit leads, and we completely deviated from everything in our game plan,” Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon continued to cruise in the third quarter after a brief threat from Marion. The Wildcats whittled the Rams lead down to 43-41, but Mt. Vernon coasted back ahead by 10. Again, it was the offense of Fitzjerrells. He knocked down a pair of free throws to give Mt. Vernon a 51-41 late in the third.
Marion came alive in the final quarter, and Mt. Vernon committed a litany of mistakes to aid the Wildcats. Mt. Vernon coughed the ball up four times in the quarter, but still held a 58-51 with three minutes left.
With two minutes remaining, Colten Carter sliced the deficit to six with free throws. Carter later hit a three to cut it to 60-57. Robby Dosier gave Marion the edge with 1:18 left in the game on a bucket.
Mt. Vernon managed to reclaim a 67-65 edge after free throws from Hawkins and Doug Gardner with 3.7 second left in the game.
Marion took possession, and Jackson raced the ball down the court. He called timeout with a second left. Marion lobbed the ball into Carsen Cash, and Fitzjerrells was called for a foul with a tenth of a second left. Cash hit both free throws to send the game into overtime.
Mt. Vernon is 6-2 overall and 0-2 in conference play. The Rams travel to Waterloo tonight.