Rams take second in Pyramid Plus Tournament


Brandyn Wilcoxen , Sports Editor

A new season brings new beginnings for every team across the nation. Every team starts with zero wins, zero losses, zero ties, and zero points. Nothing is decided, and any team can come away from Thanksgiving week with great momentum going into conference play. For this reason, it is important for teams to get their first win early, not looking to fall behind others before the calendar turns over to December.

The Mt. Vernon Rams entered 2019-20 with baggage in the form of an Amir Spann, ‘20 injury restricting him from playing in the Pyramid Plus Tournament, which limited the Rams’ rotation to seven players. Despite this setback, the Rams left Carterville High School on Saturday with a 3-1 record and 2nd place in the annual Thanksgiving tournament.

Regular season play began with a 52-42 victory over the Herrin Tigers, led by a 19 point effort form Jackson Creel, ‘20, along with 10 points each from Quani Rudd, ‘21, and Simon Wilson, ‘20. The win in Mt. Vernon’s opening contest came despite a virtual home game for the Tigers, whose six-mile trip to Carterville attracted a rowdy student section.

Following a 24-4 first quarter lead – propelled by Creel’s 13 points – the Tigers clawed their way back, cutting the deficit to single-digits at various points in the game. However, the Rams ultimately tamed the Tigers by the game’s end, walking into the locker room Monday night with their first win of the season.

Wednesday night’s affair saw the Rams taking on the host Carterville Lions; while Mt. Vernon held leads as large as seven points on six different occasions, the Lions would not go down easily, nailing a go-ahead three-pointer to take a 54-53 lead with 13 seconds remaining.

The next Rams possession saw Wilson draw a foul and drain the subsequent free throws, pushing his game total to 11 and pushing his team to a 55-54 final score, fending off the host Lions. Wilson was joined in scoring by Carson Prost, ‘21, with 20 points, and Rudd with 14 points.

Under the Friday Night Lights of Carterville High, the Rams suffered their first – and thus far only – loss of the new campaign, an 80-43 defeat to the Collinsville Kahoks. Although Rudd and Wilson boosted their point totals with 18 and 10 respectively, Mt. Vernon was outmatched in rebounding and defensive play, surrendering their most points since 2015, when they were defeated thrice by the eventual IHSA State Champion Althoff Crusaders.

Wrapping up their tournament run were the Rams, who took down South Seven conference rival Marion Wildcats to the tune of 59-32. Rudd’s 19 points and Creel’s 14 points, complemented by stellar defense from Prost, Dylan Harkins, ‘21, and the rest of the Rams, propelled Mt. Vernon to a bounceback win headed into conference play.

For their efforts, Rudd, Creel, and Prost were named to the 2019 Pyramid Plus All-Tournament Team. Each averaged over 10 points per game over the 4 game stretch, with Rudd leading the way at 61 points, followed by Creel and Prost with 43 and 42 points. Also appearing on the week’s statsheet were Wilson with 36, Hunter Simmons, ‘21, with 10, Harkins with 9, NJ Benson, ‘22, with his first 4 career varsity points, and Adam Ackley, ‘20, and Mason Hemby, ‘20, with 2 points each.

The Mt. Vernon Rams (3-1, 0-0) will return to the court on Friday, December 6 at Carbondale Community High School to take on the Terriers (2-1, 0-0) in the first South Seven conference game of the 2019-20 season.