By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams made a furious run at the end of the second quarter and held off a ferocious rally from Centralia to win 40-30 Friday night.
The Rams dominated their rival from the north in the first half. Trevor Flota helped Mt. Vernon off to a quick start hitting from 3-point range. The senior connected for a trio of triples in the first quarter. The hot shooting gave Mt. Vernon a 14-8 edge going into the second quarter. Flota led the Rams with 22 points.
“I don’t know if we’ve played that well in a half in a long, long time,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “We were hitting our perimeter shots. We were scoring around the basket. We were playing good defense.”
The Orphans chipped away at the deficit and closed to 18-14 with three minutes left in the half before the Rams exploded.
Flota stole the ball and converted a layup. Jarron Liddell grabbed an offensive rebound and scored. Then Michael Feezer brought Rams fans out of their seats with a steal and slam dunk. The bucket gave Mt. Vernon a 24-14 lead. Liddell capped the half with a jumper that beat the buzzer, making the score 26-14.
“A lot of it was Michael Feezer’s dunk that really got us going,” Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon maintained its double-digit lead until late in the third quarter. The Rams were up 29-18 with 1:55 left, but an offensive drought of nearly eight minutes allowed the Orphans to close to within four points with 3:19 left in the game.
“We kind of went into a little bit of a shell I thought,” Gamber said. “I thought we took bad opportunities early, and then I think that led to not taking good opportunities.”
Centralia slashed the lead to 20-38 with two minutes left, but Mt. Vernon’s Jake Pike helped calm the tempo with a layup after the Rams broke the Orphans full-court press. Pike’s basket made the score 32-28, and the Orphans never got closer.
“They really let the game get away from them,” Gamber said. “They cut it all the way to two. We about lost it, and we were able to find a way to regather our composure.”
Flota and Pike effectively ended the game from the free throw line. The two combined to hit all eight of their attempts in the final quarter.
Mt. Vernon is 3-2 this season and 1-0 in the South Seven Conference.