MARION — Third time was a charm as the Mount Vernon Rams beat the Marion Wildcats, 72-52, in an emotion filled South Seven Conference boys basketball game on Jam the Gym night at Virgil “Cuss” Wilson Gymnasium Friday.
“It’s a nice win for us,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel. “Anytime you can win on the road in this conference it’s good. I hate the way things went, but we’ll take it.”
Mount Vernon (10-8, 2-4 South Seven) had lost to the Wildcats by a point at the Pyramid Plus and by two at home in their previous meetings, but Friday with the help of four technical fouls by Marion the Rams turned the game around after Marion had fought back from a 13-point second quarter deficit to tie the game at the beginning of the third quarter.
“The fans were the loudest they’ve been all season and we talked to the kids after the game telling them to make a positive out of this negative,” said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. ”We have a short turnaround having to go to Pinckneyville and play Mater Dei Saturday, so let’s take out some frustration and make this a rallying cry for us.”
The game actually came down to free throws with Mount Vernon taking 42 free throws making 38, including making 7-of-8 off of the technical fouls, while Marion was only 9-of-18 from the line. Amir Spann was perfect from the line for Rams making 14-1of-14 while Zach Williams made 14-of-17.
“We’ve shot well from the line all season,” Creel said. “The technicals helped because you not only get the points, but you get the ball back.”
Marion (14-7, 2-4 South Seven) opened the third quarter down by seven, but behind a basket by Jaden Lacy followed by a 3-pointer and a steal and a basket by Jackson Connor tied the scored at the 1:08 mark.
“We were in a great position in the second half after getting momentum at the end of the first half getting Mount Vernon playing a little fast taking quick shots, but we didn’t capitalize at that moment,” Gillespie said. “We turned it over on two crucial stretches when I thought we should have got layups. And we missed too many free throws.
The teams traded baskets before the Rams began an 8-0 run started by a basket by Jake Martin. Spann then went to line and made two free throws and followed with a layup. Williams then drew a foul and made two more free throws.
At that point, David Fletcher was called for a technical foul sending Williams back to the line where he again made two free throws. Marion got those points back on two free throws by Lacy after a steal, but Lacy was called for a foul sending Williams to the line again where he made his first throw.
Before he could shoot his second, Terrell Henderson was called for a technical and a Marion assistant coach was called for another technical sending Williams to the line for four more free throws, of which he made three. He then completed his one-and-one and missed that one also, but in the process extended the Rams lead to 12 with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Mount Vernon took an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter and expanded it to 14 before Marion made a run cutting the lead to seven with 5:05 remaining.
However, with 4:16 remaining Lacy picked up his fifth foul sending Spann to the line for two more free throws and also sending Coach Gillespie to the locker room when he was called for Marion’s fourth technical foul. The closest Marion got was 10 points the rest of the game.