Rams fall short in 79th annual Centralia Holiday Tournament

Cam Meyer, Editor In-Chief

From December 28-30, the Rams basketball team competed in the seventy-ninth annual Centralia Holiday Tournament.

The Rams finished with a 1-2 record, facing teams from as north as Chicago and south as Apopka, Florida.

“Although we went 1-2 at the CHT, we played tough and had several players really step up. We were without Navontae Nesbit [in] the first game and he only played limited minutes in the other two games.  The CHT helped us come together and learn some things about our team.  We have gone 6-2 since and led the conference with a 6-0 record.  The Rams recently advanced to the championship game of the Salem Invitational Tournament for the 2nd year in a row before falling in a close game to East St. Louis. In the semi-final win vs Carbondale, the Rams won the 2000th all-time game for Mt. Vernon. Mt. Vernon basketball ranks 5th in Illinois history and 10th in US history in all-time basketball wins,” stated Head Coach Tim Holloway

The Ram’s first of three matchups came against the Dyett Eagles.

“I feel like everyone stepped up in the tournament, especially Equinton. With me being out completely the first game he stepped up to the plate in my spot and helped the team get the win over Dyett. He also did well in the other two games with me being on a minutes restriction,” point guard Navontae Nesbit, ‘24, said.

In a lower-scoring affair, the Rams got it done, finishing with a final score of 49-39, booking their ticket to the quarterfinal against the Evanston Wildkits.

“Although we didn’t win the tournament we have grown tremendously from our first game. At the beginning of the season, we struggled terribly with rebounding. We have grown a lot in that area, and we play a lot more together, and a lot faster now,” stated Nesbit.

The Rams suffered their first tournament loss against the Wildkits with an even lower scoring total, led by Nesbit’s 8 points, the Rams only counted up 31 points to Evanston’s 44.

“As a team, we played tough even though the record in the tournament does not show it, and we played three very talented teams. Those three teams were probably some of the best teams in the tournament and we just came up short to all of them,” said shooting guard Colin McClure, ‘23.

With that loss, the Rams moved on to the Annex to compete against the Wekiva Mustangs (FL) to start the day of basketball off at 8:30 am.

McClure and small forward Rolen Adams, ‘23, combined for 35 points, but even this wasn’t enough to move past the Mustangs, falling short 90-65.

“[The tournament] has good competition, so our heads are still high,” stated Adams.

“We always try to play as hard as we can and we just came up short this year and we plan to learn from it and move forward, as a team we plan to stick together and keep fighting no matter what happens,” stated McClure, “Those are the type of games that we want to be in, because they prepare us for the postseason and make us tougher as a team.”

After this tournament, the Rams picked up four straight wins with only one loss coming against the Herrin Tigers.

“This is the most important stretch of the season coming up, because we are setting ourselves up for the postseason every game. These games matter to us and we plan to take it one possession at a time,” McClure said.