By Paul Hines
CENTRALIA — Mt. Vernon rallied from a double-digit deficit against the Orphans on Friday night but lost 54-45.
The Rams were down as much as 13 points early in the fourth quarter before slicing the margin down to a single point with two minutes left.
“We had all the momentum,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “They had a lot of pressure on them right there.
“We just had a series of mental errors and some big things.”
Centralia manged to regroup, hit a pair of critical shots and hold off the Rams.
Braden Fitzjerrells and Shakari Hawkins led the Rams with 12 points each. Jake Pike added eight.
Jake Wood paced Centralia with 18 points.
Centralia led throughout the game and built a 46-33 edge with 6:25 left in the game before the Rams fought back. The Orphans aided the Rams comeback with six fourth-quarter turnovers.
After a Centralia miscue, Luke Wilson hit a layup to cut the deficit to 46-38. Fitzjerrells followed with a steal and basket to make the score 46-40. Doug Gardner continued the surge with a 3-pointer. Then down three, Wood fouled Pike on a 3-pointer. Pike stepped to the line and sank two shots to make the score 46-45 with 2:11 left.
Centralia gathered a portion of its previous lead back on the next two possessions. The Orphans scored on a pair of layups while the Rams missed a pair of long-range attempts. The swing gave the Orphans a 50-45 lead.
“We took two of the worst basketball shots I've ever seen in a game,” Gamber said. “I was in shock.”
Mt. Vernon struggled with turnovers early in the game. The Rams committed seven mistakes in the opening period, but Centralia couldn't pull away. The Orphans took a10-5 lead into the second.
Wood came alive in the second and third quarters. He helped the Orphans build its double-digit edge with all of his 18 points in the two periods.
“Jake Wood was a huge factor tonight,” Gamber said. “(He) scored inside, hit three threes. He's good.”
Mt. Vernon is 11-5 this season and 1-4 in South Seven Conference play. Centralia, the ninth-ranked team in 3A, improved to 15-1 overall.