By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Lady Rams flattened Marion 51-18 on their way to winning the team’s first South Seven title since 2004.
“It feels great,” Kelby Kujawa said. “I know the past few years we’ve been down, haven’t won very many games. So doing this, especially my senior year, it feels amazing.”
Mt. Vernon clinched a share of the conference title a week ago at Belleville Althoff. Thursday’s win gave the team sole possession of the crown.
“(It’s) just a testament to what teams that come together and good kids can do,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Lonnon said. “They’re good kids. They’re team players. They’re coachable.”
The title came after Mt. Vernon lost its leading scorer Haley Lockhart early in the season to a knee injury.
“That right there I don’t think would have gotten very good odds in Vegas early in the year,” Lonnon said.
Kujawa and Hannah Owens led the Lady Rams offense with 12 points each. Claire Ryan finished with seven. Courtney Scarbrough and Aaliyah Palmer had four each.
“I don’t think either (Kujawa or Palmer) get near enough credit for what they do,” Lonnon said. “They’re both really good shooters, and they’re both very smart, instinctive basketball players.”
The game was never in doubt as the Lady Rams rolled to a double digit lead midway through the second quarter. Mt. Vernon’s defense locked up the Lady Wildcats offense and held Marion to just five made field goals in the game. Marion mustered two points in the third quarter.
“Defense is what we built this championship on,” Lonnon said. “If we had not rededicated ourselves to the defense end, we wouldn’t have done this.”
During the third quarter, Mt. Vernon pushed its lead past 20 points. The final score was the largest advantage of the night for the Lady Rams, and every player on the Mt. Vernon roster played in the game.
Mt. Vernon is 19-6 this season and 8-1 in conference play. The Lady Rams finished the regular season with a home game against Cahokia on Tuesday.
“It’s not over. We still have to get our 20th win,” Lonnon said. “And we have to prepare for that regional because that’s our ultimate goal.”