By Paul Hines
JERSEYVILLE — Kyle Steckel beat the buzzer with a driving layup to give Jersey a 47-45 win over Mt. Vernon on Saturday night.
“We let their best player dribble all the way down the floor with his strong hand and shoot a layup,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I don't understand. It's unbelievable.”
Braden Fitzjerrells gave the Rams a chance to take the lead with 10.4 seconds left in the game. With Mt. Vernon down 45-43, he drove to the basket took a bump and dropped down a bucket. He stepped to the free throw line, trying to give Mt. Vernon a slender lead. He missed his free throw. Shively took the ball down the court for the winning shot.
Fitzjerrells led Mt. Vernon with 14 points, and Shakari Hawkins added 13. Jake Pike was also in double figures with 10 points.
Mt. Vernon controlled the opening half of action and took a 27-18 edge into the locker room. Jersey responded with a run to start the third quarter.
The Panthers changed the tempo with their defense. They used a half-court trap and full-court press against the Rams. The pressure resulted in five Mt. Vernon turnovers in the period.
“Had we not seen it or had we not gone over it, that would be one thing,” Gamber said. “But the fact that the majority of our time today we spent going over their trap and we saw it over and over and we talked about it and talked about it and walked through it and went full speed with it today.
“It looked like we had never seen that once in our lives.”
The Mt. Vernon miscues aided an 11-2 Jersey run to start the third and knotted the score at 29 after a bank shot from Luke Shively.
“The third quarter was the same as (Cahokia),” Gamber said. “You let a team go on that kind of a run in the third quarter, you're going to get beat.”
Jersey took a 34-31 edge late in the third before Mt. Vernon's Jake Pike rang up a 3-pointer to tie the game to end the quarter.
The final period was close throughout with both teams trading baskets for most of the quarter. The lead changed 10 times between the two squad in the final eight minutes of action.
After a 6-0 start to the season, Mt. Vernon is 6-10 in the last 16 games. The Rams lost its two weekend games to Cahokia and Jersey by a combined six points.
“I guess the positive’s we put ourselves in a chance to win two basketball games, but the negatives is we didn't win either one,” Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon is 12-10 this season and travels to Marion on Friday night.