Creel, Prost lead comeback against Crusaders


Photo by Grant Smith

Jackson Creel, ’20 drives the ball into the paint at Friday night’s barn burner against Althoff. Creel led in scoring that night with 28 points.

Brandyn Wilcoxen, Sports Writer

No matter what one does, there are going to be people better at it than them. On Friday night, it appeared that Althoff would be that one team in the South Seven conference better than Mt. Vernon. Halfway through the third quarter, the Crusaders buried a three-pointer to put them up by 13. Forty-three days after beating the Rams by 14 in Belleville, the Althoff Crusaders were well on their way to winning another game and the South Seven title outright. It isn’t uncommon for fans to abandon their seats in favor of beating the traffic, but none of the Ram faithful did. They were rewarded with the greatest game in the history of Stanley A. Changnon Gymnasium 2.0.

The Mt. Vernon Rams, down 45-32 in the third quarter, rallied all the way back to force overtime, and ultimately claim victory over the Althoff Crusaders by a score of 73-66. The Rams improve to 15-10 with the win, but more importantly improved to 5-3 in South Seven play. With two games remaining against the Cahokia Comanches, the Rams have an opportunity to win 2 more conference games and tie the Crusaders (14-12, 7-3) for a share of the South Seven conference championship, which would be Mt. Vernon’s first since 1999.

The Rams achieved a season-high 73 points on offense with career highs by Jackson Creel, ’20 (28 points), and Carson Prost, ’21 (12 points). Prost made his first career home start on Friday, and was vital in the final moments of the game.

Early in the game, both teams traded bursts of scoring, and while the Crusaders never trailed in the first half, the Rams kept close behind. Both teams went into their locker rooms with a 28-24 score separating the two rivals, and both coaches had a message for their players. Rams coach Doug Creel reminded his team that they were still in the game, while Crusaders coach Greg Leib emphasized his team’s ability to run away with the game. In the end, both coaches would be right.


Althoff opened the second half on an 8-0 run, and later extended it to 14-5 to claim a 13-point lead, the biggest lead of the night. A three-pointer by Weston Brockhouse, ‘19 (15 points) was immediately followed up by a Crusader three-pointer, and the score was Althoff 45, Mt. Vernon 32. At this moment, when lesser teams would throw in the towel, The Rams refused to stop fighting. A three-pointer and a pair of pairs of free throws from Creel, interrupted by an Althoff basket, ended the third quarter with the score of 47-39.


The beginning of the fourth quarter saw both teams once again trade baskets, but at 52-43, Creel broke the trend with an and-1 opportunity after an Althoff shooting foul. Creel missed the free-throw, and Althoff rebounded. However, Lukas Cooper, ‘19 (8 points) stole the ball and converted an easy basket. On the next possession, Evan Leake, ‘21 (2 points) jumped a passing lane and scored a basket of his own. The Rams were only down 3 points.


An Althoff score pushed the game back to two possessions, but it was followed up by a pair of free throws and a layup from Prost. A Belleville timeout iced a potential game-tying and-1 opportunity, and the Crusaders remained ahead by the slimmest of margins with two minutes to go in regulation.


Althoff drew a shooting foul to increase their lead back to three points after a pair of free throws, and added two more following an intentional foul off the rebound of an empty Rams possession. The Crusader lead was back to five, and cut back to 3 on a Creel basket with 59.1 seconds remaining. Another pair of Crusader free throws were one-upped by a Creel three-pointer to pull the Rams within two. Yet another pair of Crusader free throws pushed their lead back to four.


The score was Althoff 62, Mt. Vernon 58. If the Rams were going to win, they had to score two possessions in just under 30 seconds. Creel received the inbound pass and was immediately fouled unintentionally by a Crusader defender, sending Creel to the line with virtually no time off the clock. Creel, a reliable free throw shooter, made the first to trim the lead to single digits.


Creel’s second free throw missed the mark, but was rebounded by Dylan Harkins, ‘21, whose pass to a double-teamed Creel set up a wide-open game-tying corner three from Prost, who hit the biggest shot of his life to tie the game at 62. The Rams and Crusaders were going to overtime.


The Crusaders struck first in overtime, but a three-pointer by Simon Wilson, ‘20 (8 points) gave Mt. Vernon the lead for the first time in the game. During the final period, Prost continued to haunt the Crusaders with three free throws and a defensive block on an Althoff layup attempt, and Cooper and Creel free throws sealed the victory for the Mt. Vernon Rams, earning their first win in a Blackout game since 2015.


The Rams improve to 6-0 at home, and look to cement a historic undefeated season at Stanley A. Changnon Gymnasium on Wednesday, February 20th against the Cahokia Comanches (6-17, 2-6). The Rams must win this game, and again in Cahokia to win a share of the South Seven conference title. Tipoff for the JV game is scheduled for 6:15, with the varsity game to follow.