By PAUL HINES
Mt. Vernon pushed Collinsville to double overtime but couldn’t pull off a victory in the Pyramid Plus Tournament on Friday night.
Collinsville won the game 41-36.
“I think Collinsville’s a really good basketball team,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I thought we played not very well in the first half, but I thought our second half effort was outstanding.”
The Rams had a pair of chances to end the game with its final posession of regulation and again in the first overtime. With time running down in the fourth quarter, Jarron Liddell tried to drive the ball to the basket. He wasn’t able to get a shot off as the Collinsville defense swallowed him up.
Mt. Vernon turned to Braden Fitzjerrells as the clock counted down in the first extra session with the game tied. The freshman drove to the basket. His shot was halfway down but rolled out as time expired.
“Braden’s shot was in the cylinder,” Gamber said. “It was down and somehow it spun out. That would have won it in the first overtime.”
Zeke Moore gave Collinsville an early advantage at 36-34 in the second overtime. It was a lead the Kahoks clung to and keep for the rest of the game. Falando Wilkinson added a free throw with 2:32 left to give his team a three-point edge.
Mt. Vernon clawed to within a point, and with the Rams down two Liddell stepped to the free throw line with 1:08 left and a chance to tie the score. He missed both free throws. Mt. Vernon struggled from the line throughout the game and finished four of 14.
“We work on it every day obviously, but it’s different when it’s in a game situation,” Gamber said.
Despite the misses, Travis Mitchell gave the Rams two more chances to extend the game in the final minute with 3-pointers. Both attempts missed.
“Our kids played well enough and derserved to win that game, and we fell short,” Gamber said. “That’s tough.”
Both teams struggled to gain control in an uneven first half of play. Collinsville took a 16-10 lead into halftime. Both squads were called for numerous traveling violations. Mt. Vernon shot three of 18 from the field in the opening half. Eight first quarter turnovers hindered the Kahoks.
The game took a strategic shift early in the fourth quarter. Collinsville took a 27-26 lead and brought the flow of the game to a halt. With 6:30 left, the Kahoks were content to hold the ball above the key. Collinsville had the ball for about four and a half minutes before the Rams got it back.
“I thought that they have more firepower, more size, and if they want to take five minutes off the clock and make it a one minute game rather than a six and a half minute game, to me, I like our chances,” Gamber said. “I thought it worked out for us.”
Trevor Flota was the only Rams player in double figures with 10 points.
Mt. Vernon is 2-2 this season and hosts Centralia on Friday.