Rams claim South 7 title

The Vernois defeat Cahokia

Quani+Rudd%2C+%2721+pauses+before+shooting+a+free+throw+in+Changnon+Gym.+Rudd+scored+30+points%2C+a+career+high%2C+at+the+game+against+Cahokia.+
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Rams claim South 7 title

Quani Rudd, '21 pauses before shooting a free throw in Changnon Gym. Rudd scored 30 points, a career high, at the game against Cahokia.

Quani Rudd, '21 pauses before shooting a free throw in Changnon Gym. Rudd scored 30 points, a career high, at the game against Cahokia.

Photo by Grant Smith

Quani Rudd, '21 pauses before shooting a free throw in Changnon Gym. Rudd scored 30 points, a career high, at the game against Cahokia.

Photo by Grant Smith

Photo by Grant Smith

Quani Rudd, '21 pauses before shooting a free throw in Changnon Gym. Rudd scored 30 points, a career high, at the game against Cahokia.

Brandyn Wilcoxen, Sports Writer

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At 7:18 pm on Friday, February 22nd, 2019, the Mt. Vernon Rams unofficially became the “Champions of the JV Universe”, a phrase coined by JV Coach Lance Boldt to describe his undefeated team. They finished the 2018-19 campaign 14-0 after a 69-42 victory over the Cahokia Comanches. At 9:16 pm, 1 hour and 58 minutes later, the varsity team accomplished a much greater feat: a conference championship.

 

The 2018-19 Mt. Vernon Rams became the nineteenth team in school history to win the South Seven conference with a 68-52 victory over the Cahokia Comanches in Cahokia. The win pushes the Rams to 17-10, 7-3 in the South Seven. With the Rams win and a Centralia loss to Marion in a double overtime thriller, Mt. Vernon splits the South Seven conference title with the Althoff Crusaders. The Rams went 20 years between conference championships, their last coming in 1999.

 

In a season predicted to be dominated by the Rams’ talented starting unit, it was the sophomores who shined down the stretch. Carson Prost, ‘21 averaged nine points per game in his four starts, including two double-digit outings against Althoff and Cahokia. Evan Leake, ‘21, Dylan Harkins, ‘21, and Hunter Simmons, ‘21, have stepped up and played well despite not often appearing in the box score. The clear standout in this crew is Quani Rudd, ‘21, whose performance in the Rams’ championship-clinching regular-season finale is plenty enough to give the Rams both momentum and confidence moving forward.

 

Rudd led the team in scoring with a phenomenal 30 points, complemented by 15 points from Prost. Also racking up points are Weston Brockhouse, ‘19 with eight points, Jackson Creel, ‘20 with six points, Lukas Cooper, ‘19 with three points, and two points each from Simon Wilson, ‘20, Simmons, and Mason Hemby, ‘20.

 

The first quarter gave the audience a taste of a game between two theoretically evenly-matched teams, with both squads trading baskets and leads in the 8-minute period. Rudd racked up eight of his points in the first, already a career high for him, and led the Rams to an 11-11 tie through the first.

 

Rudd continued his run with another bucket, pushing him to double-digits, while free throws from Creel and Brockhouse and a basket from Prost gave the Rams a seven-point advantage in a game that Cahokia could not let get out of hand if they wished to play spoiler for the Rams’ season.

 

Cahokia responded to the Ram run with four of their own points, but Rudd made those points back up, giving him 14 for the night. Simmons, Creel, and Rudd added to the lead – a run only interrupted by a single layup from the Comanches – and the Rams went down into the locker room up 32-17.

 

At halftime, Creel brought to the attention of both Coach Doug Creel and the athletic trainer Ms. Kerry Hammond the possibility of a concussion suffered in the second quarter. Creel warmed up for the second half, but was evaluated for concussion-like symptoms and sat out the rest of the game.

 

In the younger Creel’s absence, the elder Creel’s crew held off Cahokia in the third quarter, with a six point burst from Brockhouse and another nine points from Rudd to put him at 26 with his team 8 minutes away from a historic victory, up 47-32 following the final buzzer of the third quarter.

 

The fourth quarter, unofficially known as The Carson Prost Show, saw the Comanches repeatedly foul Prost in hopes of mounting a comeback, but they merely gave him opportunities to rack up some points of his own. Prost made eight consecutive free throws before Cahokia decided he was less dangerous out on the floor. Prost once again proved his opposition wrong, knocking down a pair of jump shots to bring his total for the day to 15. One last bucket and free throw from Rudd pushed his total to 30, capping off a performance that replicates Spann’s and Brockhouse’s 30 and 15 points respectively from the first game of the season.

 

One midrange jumper from Hemby – scoring his first varsity points of the year – later, and the Rams were crowned South Seven conference champions. However, their season is far from over, as March Madness looms in Southern Illinois. The Rams will play the Triad Knights at Salem High School, the same opponent and venue that lent them a 29-point victory in the Salem Invitational Tournament, on Monday, February 25th. The winner of the contest will go on to face the Salem Wildcats, whom the Rams are 0-2 in Salem against, in the Regional semifinals on Wednesday, February 27th.

 

However, the victory over Triad was with a healthy Rams team. Since that game, Amir Spann, ‘20 has gone down with a knee injury, Creel is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Brockhouse is playing hurt after injuring his ankle a week prior. The Rams also have a bench full of players willing to take their places when necessary, as they have in Mt. Vernon’s late-season rally. The Mt. Vernon Rams, while they celebrate their reign, plan on continuing their run well into March.

 

The first round of the IHSA Class 3A Regional tips off at 7:30 pm at B.E. Gum Gymnasium in Salem.