Southern Illinois Classic hosts talent from across Midwest

First annual event showcases skills of 13 Division I athletes


Mount Vernon’s Cooper Hemby plays defense against Belleville East’s Jordan Pickett, Saturday night.

Caden Plummer and Roman Harrison

On Saturday night the stars were out and shining bright at Mount Vernon Township High School, as the school hosted the first annual Southern Illinois Classic Basketball Shootout. The shootout brought sixteen of the top basketball teams from Illinois and Missouri into one gym for a jam-packed day of elite-level basketball. 

Between the sixteen teams, there were thirteen players who have either received Division 1 offers or have the attention of many Division 1 teams. With that much talent, expectations and anticipation for the games was high and to say the least, the teams did not disappoint.

The day started at 10 am with the Lady Rams matching up with the undefeated Breese Central Cougars. The game was action packed as both teams were letting it fly from deep and raining threes. The Cougars started the game hot and were up by 9 points early in the game. The Lady Rams didn’t let this lead last for long as they came roaring back with a scoring streak of their own to end the quarter up by a point with a score of 12-11. The rest of the game was a battle where the Lady Rams slowly pulled away from the Cougars. The final score was 60-53 with Mount Vernon coming out on top to advance their record to 6-2 on the season. Claire Heinzman won MVP of the game after scoring 21 points and making 3 crucial three point shots.

The next game of the day was a matchup of Metro East Lutheran High School and Meridian High School. This game was a back and forth battle with neither team giving in until the final buzzer sounded. Meridian led for most of the game but Metro East never let the game get out of hand. Anytime they would get down and the lead seemed out of reach, they seemed to storm back into the game in a miraculous way. One of these scoring streaks came in the form of making four consecutive three point shots. However in the end Metro East efforts weren’t enough to push them over the edge as they fell to Meridian 63-58. Grant Meisenhelter won MVP for contributing 14 points, many at crucial points in the game, and for playing good defense throughout the whole game. 

Game 3 was between Belleville West and Mccluer. The game was a close matchup for most of the game. At the end of the third quarter the score was tied at 39. The final quarter was a scoring fiasco with Belleville scoring 22 points while putting the game out of reach. When Travion Hines threw down a monster slam. The final score was 61-54 with Belleville West coming out on top. Damien Farley led Belleville with 14 points. Travion Hines won MVP after scoring twelve points including his monster slam and dishing out three assists while grabbing six boards. 

The last game of the morning session was a girls basketball game between O’Fallon and Dunlap. This matchup featured 2 Division I level players, Shannon Dowel for O’Fallon and Sophia Remmel. O’Fallon jumped out to a lead and there was no stopping them for the rest of the game. The final score was 64-38 with O’Fallon coming out victorious. Shannon Dowel won MVP after scoring 11 points and contributing to the team in ways that don’t show up in the stat sheet. 

CBC’s Anthony Gause drives towards the basket against Hyde Park

The first game of the second session featured O’Fallon facing off against Hazelwood Central. The first half of the game seemed to drag on because of the number of fouls. Despite that feeling the game was a tug of war and was close all the way until the final buzzer. O’Fallon led by two with 47 seconds left. Hazelwood, however, was unable to take the lead in that time and ended up falling to O’Fallon 70-68. The MVP of the matchup was Tyler Lunning who scored 16 points and made 3 threes while also shooting 83% from the free throw line. 

Game 6 of the day was the highly anticipated matchup between CBC and Hyde Park. CBCs star-filled lineup came to play as CBC jumped to an early lead and never looked back. The most notable player for CBC was 7’2” center John Bol. Larry Hughes Jr. was also a big contributor in CBC’s win. The final score was 77-66 with John Bol pouring in 14 points on the offensive end and contributing 4 blocks on the defensive end, resulting in winning the MVP award for the game.

Game 7 was also highly anticipated in the 3A matchup between East St. Louis Flyers and Normal Community Ironmen. Coming into the game the players to watch were Macaleab Rich and Dalen Byrd from East St. Louis, and Zachary Cleveland from Normal. The referees certainly let them play as this was a very physical game on both sides of the ball. It ended with the Ironmen coming out on top in a 50-37 final score, which came as a surprise to many given how hyped up the Flyers were. The MVP of the game was Zachary Cleveland for holding the very athletic East St. Louis team to only 37 points. 

Cooper Hemby goes up for a layup in the last game of the night against Belleville East

The final game of the night pitted the Mount Vernon Rams against the Lancers of Belleville East. This match featured the Rams led by Missouri State commit N.J. Benson falling short of the Jordan Pickett-led Lancers by a margin of just one point, 67-66. The Mt. Vernon squad was led by N.J., who dropped 24 points and Colin McClure with 13. Highlighting Benson’s performance was a fast break play in which he went behind the back to avoid a defender and then capped the play off with a slam. The Khaos Kage, Mt. Vernon’s fan section, thoroughly enjoyed this showcase of athleticism. The momentum started by this stellar play was almost immediately snuffed out because of halftime, which arrived a few moments after the play, and the Lancers did not hesitate to take advantage, as Jordan Pickett, who had trouble shooting in the first half, began to have his shots fall, ending with 17 points. Byron Jones contributed to East’s second half momentum with two jams coming out of halftime. In essence the Rams hung around with a high caliber program despite having 15 turnovers. Turnovers have seemed to be a common issue with the Rams this year and have been a large contributing factor in both of their losses. The Rams have a huge matchup against rival Centralia this Friday, December 10 at Trout Arena at Centralia High School. 

The first annual Southern Illinois Classic Shootout was certainly a success. Bringing some of the best talents in Illinois and Missouri together is no small feat, but it proved to be worth it. Stellar play backed by tremendous energy created a terrific basketball environment. A great event, it will certainly be an anticipated part of the basketball season for years to come.