By Paul Hines
Mt. Vernon's final play against Collinsville wasn't run to perfection, but guard Braden Fitzjerrells gave Rams fans a picturesque finish.
With the game tied and time winding down, the sophomore fired up a 3-pointer that swished through the net.
The bucket gave Mt. Vernon a 75-72 win Friday over Collinsville. Both teams entered the matchup 3-0 in Pyramid Plus Tournament play.
Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber drew up the final play in the preceding timeout. With seconds on the clock, the play broke down, and Fitzjerrells fired up the shot.
“Sometimes the best plays are the ones that are completely blown,” Gamber said.
Fitzjerrells ended the game with 28 points to lead Mt. Vernon. Shakari Hawkins, the tournament's top scorer so far, added 23. Jake Pike was also in double figures with 16.
Anfirnee Wilkinson led Collinsville with 33 points.
The game was a battle of Collinsville's superior height against Mt. Vernon's quickness. The Kahoks started the game by dumping the ball inside to 6-8 Sean Davis and 6-5 Matt Chambers.
“We matched up with them so poorly,” Gamber said. “We've got to find a better way to guard teams like that. We won tonight because we had some great offensive performances. Our defense was not very good tonight.”
Mt. Vernon countered the Kahoks' size with its long-range shooting. Pike and Fitzjerrells bombed shots from outside the arc throughout the game. They combined for eight makes.
“I think our matchups really bothered them on our offensive end,” Gamber said.
Fitzjerrells ripped a trio of threes to start the second quarter. The hot shooting helped the Rams chip away at a 29-21 Collinsville lead.
Hawkins put the Rams ahead briefly at the end of the second quarter before Collinsville seized a 35-34 halftime edge.
The Rams took momentum out of the locker room and built a third-quarter lead. Mt. Vernon held a 52-44 edge after a shot from Hawkins with five second left in the third.
The final quarter turned into a parade to the foul line with each team being tagged with foul after foul. There were a total of 46 in the game. Collinsville was able to chip away at the Mt. Vernon lead in the final quarter after several Rams misses from the foul stripe. Mt. Vernon finished 17 of 27 from the line.
Wilkinson tied the game at 69 with 1:20 left. The Rams worked their way to a 72-69 edge after Fitzjerrells and Pike combined to hit three free throws. But with 24.4 seconds left Davis converted a three-point play to tie the game at 72 and set the stage for Fitzjerrells' game-winner.
Mt. Vernon is 4-0 and tries to finish the week undefeated with a 7 p.m. game against St. Louis Soldan.
“It's been a good tournament, for it to be a great tournament we have to take care of business (Saturday night,” Gamber said.