By PAUL HINES
Oak Lawn’s Dedrick Shannon sank the Rams chances of advancing to the winners side of the Centralia Holiday Tournament on Thursday morning.
Shannon took the ball at the top of the key and knocked down a 3-pointer with less than two seconds left in the game. The basket gave Oak Lawn a 47-44 win.
“That was tough,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon’s Trevor Flota tied the game on the previous possession with a long-range shot of his own. Flota led all scorers with 22 points.
“Trevor played well,” Gamber said. “Trevor attacked the basket well. He hit a big shot.”
The game was close throughout with each team trying to take control of the contest. Mt. Vernon seized a pair of six-point leads in the second half of the game but could never extend the advantage.
The latest lead came early in the final quarter. The Rams led 33-31 going into the fourth and quickly added to their advantage. Flota put back his own miss to open the scoring with 7:09 left. A minute later Shakari Hawkins converted a lob pass from Michael Feezer. The score put the Rams up 37-31.
“We got them where in the past we’ve wanted to get teams,” Gamber said. “We got them to where they’re having to chase. We’re up six. That’s usually when we’re at our best.”
The advantage didn’t last as Oak Lawn went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes. Despite the drought, Mt. Vernon still had a chance to take the lead. Flota cut the deficit to 43-41 with an offensive putback. With 56 seconds in the game, he missed a three to put the Rams ahead. With 27.4 seconds left, Oak Lawn’s Carlos Thomas missed a free throw. Flota long 3-pointer followed.
“I think right now we’re completely away from what can give us a chance to win,” Gamber said. “We’re not patient right now.
“We’re playing way too fast. We’re allowing way too many points.”
Mt. Vernon is 7-5 this season and faces Salem at 8:30 a.m. in the consolation bracket. Belleville West beat the Wildcats in the opening game of the tournament 72-39. The Rams and Salem matched up in the Marion Pyramid Plus Tournament earlier in the season. Mt. Vernon won 78-53.
“Now our backs are at the wall,” Gamber said. “I think Salem has a lot to play for, a lot to prove. They took a tough one today. We beat them earlier in the year.”