Rams skip a beat in Effingham


Photo By Grant Smith

Luke Cooper, ’19 takes control of the ball at the half court. Cooper scored 16 points at the game against Effingham.

Brandyn Wilcoxen, Sports Writer

“Hearts on Fire” is a 1986 song by John Cafferty. It was featured during the training montage of Rocky IV, in which Rocky Balboa prepares for the biggest fight of his life against the Soviet superathlete Ivan Drago. Drago was responsible for the death of Rocky’s best friend in the ring, and Rocky was out for revenge. “Hearts on Fire” does not represent either of the two fights in the movie, but rather what is happening between them. The title character pushes through to get to the final fight, hoping to reign victorious against his rival.


The Mt. Vernon Rams took on the Effingham Flaming Hearts once again, and once again they left the contest empty-handed after a 66-60 loss to knock them down to 14-10. The Rams have now dropped their last 3 games, and nine of their last 14, two of which coming against Effingham.


The Flaming Hearts seemed to play into a shootout, trusting their offense to outscore the Rams more than they trusted their defense to stop them. Effingham’s top two scorers in brothers Landon and Parker Wolfe combined for over 40 points in a 3-pointer clinic on their side.


In response, the Rams had scoring leaders in Jackson Creel, ‘20 (19 points), Lukas Cooper, ‘19 (16 points), and Weston Brockhouse, ‘19 (12 points). They were supplemented by six points from Simon Wilson, ‘20, three points from Quani Rudd, ‘21, and two points each from Carson Prost, ‘21 and Hunter Simmons, ‘21.


A notable name missing from the scorebook is Amir Spann, ‘20, who aggravated a knee injury in the Rams’ previous game and missed Tuesday’s game entirely. Despite missing his 15 points per game contribution, Rams coach Doug Creel was satisfied with the team’s 60-point offensive production.


“I thought we played pretty well,” said Creel. “Our offense was fine, we just needed to play better on defense.”


The battle was close for most of the gameplay, with the Rams within 2 points at the end of each quarter. Effingham’s largest lead was five points, discounting the final few minutes of the game when they were repeatedly intentionally fouled. The game featured 13 lead changes and 12 ties in a game similar to their first encounter, which went to overtime in the Salem Invitational Tournament.


The Rams’ recent skid comes at an inopportune time, as the seedings for IHSA Regionals will be announced on February 14th. The Rams go into said announcement on their 3-game losing streak, and the rest of the regular season will not affect their seed.


So, thinking of the big picture, what does this loss represent? In terms of postseason play, it only solidifies whatever seed they were penciled in for going into the game. Because Effingham is in the Apollo Conference, the loss does not count in the South Seven standings. Just like their motivation soundtrack counterparts, the Hearts on Fire merely represent the struggles Mt. Vernon must push through to reach their ultimate goal. What that goal is depends on how high the Rams are willing to shoot for. For Creel’s crew, they will do whatever it takes to keep winning.


The Rams will return to Stanley A. Changnon Gymnasium on Friday, February 15th against the Althoff Crusaders (14-11, 7-2). That night is the 10th annual Blackout game, during which the Rams seek revenge for their 68-54 loss in Belleville back in January. Tipoff for the JV game is scheduled for 6:15, with the varsity game to follow.