By Paul Hines
Mt. Vernon scored its first conference road win of the season with a 66-63 overtime victory Friday night against the Wildcats
“We've lost five in a row, and two in a row when it was right down to the wire and both of those go the other way,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “(You) can't explain the feeling getting it done because you kind of forget how to win close games.”
Five Mt. Vernon players finished in double figures to lead a balanced attack.
Shakari Hawkins paced the Rams with 14, and Jake Pike added 13. Doug Gardner and Dylan Reeves both had 11. Braden Fitzjerrells finished with 10.
Mt. Vernon never trailed in the overtime period. With the game knotted at 59 in overtime, Pike snagged an offensive rebound and put it in for a score. He added a free throw with 2:10 left to put the Rams up 62-59.
With less than a minute remaining, Marion's Moe Jackson sliced the deficit to one at 64-63. Mt. Vernon held the ball for about 40 seconds before Marion fouled Fitzjerrells with 11 seconds on the clock.
The sophomore nailed both free throws to give Mt. Vernon a 66-63 edge.
Marion took the final possession, and Jackson launched a three that missed.
“If Moe Jackson's shot goes in, he hit a really tough shot with a guy right on him,” Gamber said. “They played defense the right way, and luckily it didn't go in.”
Mt. Vernon had a chance to win the game in regulation. The Rams took possession with time running down. Fitzjerrells drove to the basket, but his foul-line jumper fell short.
Marion's Coltan Carter ripped the Mt. Vernon defense in the opening half. He led all scorers with20 in the game. Seventeen came in the first two periods and were fueled by five 3-pointers.
“He's a good player, I really like him,” Gamber said. “But he shouldn't have gotten that many. We struggled in our man defense tonight.”
Despite the hot shooting early from Carter, Mt. Vernon stayed close. The biggest Marion lead of the half came at 29-20 midway through the second quarter. Mt. Vernon was able to close the half with a run and tie it at 32 at the locker room break. Hawkins ended the half with a buzzer beating jumper.
“I think we gained a lot of confidence, and I thought we played well in the second half,” Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon is 13-10 overall this season and 2-6 in South Seven Conference play.