Rams heartbroken by Effingham in SIT

Brandyn Wilcoxen, Sports Writer

At the 2019 MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame ceremony, members of the 1969-70 boys basketball team told of their escapades following a disappointing tournament outing. As the story went, an 0-2 performance at the Carbondale Holiday Tournament that season led members of the team to pull the fire alarm at their hotel on the way out. While they were punished for their acts that were immature in hindsight, it also proved a turning point in their season, finishing 21-6 with a South 7 title along with an Elite Eight appearance.


The 2019 Rams need to pull a fire alarm.


The Mt. Vernon Rams fell in the opening round of the Salem Invitational Tournament on Wednesday to the underdog Effingham Flaming Hearts in a 54-52 overtime loss. Mt. Vernon drops to 11-6 with the result.


The game itself was a back-and-forth contest in which the score was tied eight different times among 15 lead changes between the Rams and the Flaming Hearts. Arguably the most impactful factor throughout the game was Mt. Vernon’s foul trouble, which saw Amir Spann, ‘20 foul out of the game in the fourth quarter, as well as Jackson Creel, ‘20 picking up 4 fouls and being forced to play conservatively on defense for the entirety of the overtime period.


Losing Spann for the final period meant losing the team’s leading scorer in a situation where he’s already excelled this season. Spann hit a game-winning shot in overtime against Monroe City on December 15th. However, being without him, the team needed another option. Fortunately, the Rams still had Weston Brockhouse, ‘19, Creel, Simon Wilson, ‘20, and Carson Prost, ‘21 with 17 points, nine points, eight points, and three points respectively to compliment Spann’s 15-point outing.


The odds for Mt. Vernon going into overtime were not favorable, but surely manageable. They were fortunate to be tied 49-49 after 32 minutes. A mistimed Effingham timeout wiped a made three-point attempt for the Flaming Hearts with 2.2 seconds remaining in what surely would have won the game for them. Instead, both teams headed to overtime with the same goal: win.


The final period of the opening contest of the tournament started off slow, with both teams trading free throws to reach a 51-51 score. With 33 seconds left in the period, the Rams were willing to hold the ball for the final shot. However, Wilson found an opening and was fouled on his shot, resulting in a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line and a 1-point advantage for the Rams.


Effingham allowed time elapse from the game clock. If they were going to take the lead back, it had to be on what could potentially have been the final possession. The clock reached 10 seconds. It was now-or-never for the Flaming Hearts, and their search for a good shot proved successful with a three-pointer that gave them a 2-point lead. One Rams missed shot later, and the final score read Effingham 54, Mt. Vernon 52.


The Rams are now 1-1 in overtime games, but the result highlights an ongoing trend for Mt. Vernon. The loss means the Rams have dropped 5 of their last 7 contests since the aforementioned Monroe City thriller only one month prior. This skid comes after the Rams’ 7-game win streak was snapped in the very same gymnasium they are spending the week playing in.


The Rams will look to correct their downward trend, and have an opportunity to do just that on Saturday, December 19, when they are scheduled to play two games to wrap up the Salem Invitational Tournament. The first of the pair is a date with the Triad Knights in the morning session, followed by either the Consolation Championship game, or the 7th place game depending on the outcome.