Rams take care of rival Orphans
Jay Young scores 23 in Mount Vernon's 69-59 win

Coach Doug Creel finally reeled in the 'big fish' that always seemed to get away.

After playing many tough teams down to the wire this season in the tough as nail Class AA South, Mount Vernon had a 'big zero' in the win column against the elite teams on their schedule.

However on Friday night the Rams, on Senior Night in front of a near capacity crowd at Chagnon Gym, 'hooked' its biggest catch of the season with a 69-59 triumph over state-ranked Centralia.

Jay Young, the Rams diminutive 5-7 senior guard, scored a game-high 23 points and came up with four big defense steals to help the Rams creep a game over .500 at 13-12 overall and 3-7 in the South Seven Conference.

"We have been looking for that first big win and we got it tonight," said Coach Creel. "Centralia is always a hard team to beat and this win gives our team something to feel good about heading into next week."

The Orphans came into the game ranked 18th in the most recent Associated Press statewide poll.

However the Rams defensive on this night never let the Orphans get into any sort of rhythm.

Coach Gus Gillespie's club had many chances to put the Rams away early, but missed shots and turnovers hampered the first half effort.

In perhaps the lowest scoring first quarter in the S7 this season, the Orphans led just 5-2 at the first horn.

Centralia's Neil Crosby scored all five of his clubs points including a 3-pointer from the right corner on an inbounds play with :33 to go.

The second quarter gave the fans a bit more offensive production from both teams.

Mike Hills and Matt Upchurch combined for nine points in the frame for Mount Vernon.

Trailing 9-4 early in the second quarter, Hills scored his second bucket of the game on a 10-foot baseline jumper.

Upchurch followed that shot up with his first 3-pointer of the night to even the score at 9-apiece.

On the next Orphan possession, Jay Young picked up his first of four steals on the night. He snagged an errant Centralia pass and drove the length of the court for a lay in while being fouled by Jeremy Moss.

Although Young missed his free throw, the Rams led 11-9.

With Mount Vernon's defense set up to try and stop all-state candidate Matt Shaw on this night, the Orphans needed some scoring help from some other players.

While Shaw managed just two points in the first half on 1-for-6 shooting, reserve Joey Parker provided an offensive spark in the second quarter with eight points.

After Upchurch scored again on a mid-range jumper from the right corner, Parker scored the Orphans next six points to give them a 15-14 halftime lead.

His highlight of that run was a score in the lane while being fouled by MV's Brian Deaton.

His made free throw cut the lead to 13-12 and his rebound basket later in the quarter with 1:22 left put his team back on top.

Mount Vernon held the ball for one shot and Centralia gave them a gift as Brandon Westbrook fouled Michael Doggan with :03.3 left.

Doggan made the second free throw to send the teams to the break.

The Orphans, for the first few minutes of the second half, showed why they are so highly regarded when they took off on their best run of the night to take brief control of the game.

The 7-0 run which featured a 3-pointer and a baseline power move by Shaw that gave Centralia a 24-18 lead and forced a Mount Vernon timeout with 5:02 left in the quarter.

Coach Creel's team responded quickly with Upchurch hitting another 3-pointer, which was followed by yet another Young steal and made lay up. This time Westbrook fouled Young, and the Ram playmaker made the free throw to even the score at 24-all.

Young wasn't close to being done on this night as he stepped up to score six straight points for the Rams, which gave Mount Vernon the lead going into the final quarter.

He canned his second 3-pointer of the quarter to even the game at 31.

The Orphans worked the clock in the final moments of the quarter and their patience paid off as Parker scored on a 15-footer from near the free throw line to give his team back the lead at 33-31 with :05.3.

But the Rams quickly got the ball inbounds to Young, who was fouled some 35-feet from the basket by Crosby while throwing up a shot at the buzzer.

Standing at the free throw line with no time on the clock, Young calmly made all three free throw attempts to send his team to the final quarter up 34-33.

"That play happened right in front of our bench. He got fouled and he stepped up and made the shots," added Creel. "I don't know what we would do as a team without Jay Young. He has such a good feel for the game and that is something you can't teach."

Those three points started the Rams on the ultimate scoring run that would eventually sink Centralia's chances of coming out of Chagnon Gym with a win.

Mount Vernon scored 14-straight points with Matt Greene hitting a pair of huge 3-point shots.

Greene's first bomb came from the left wing just seconds into the final quarter.

After a Centralia turnover, Young hit another 3-pointer from the right side, forcing Coach Gillespie to call a timeout at 7:01 to play and 40-33 Rams.

Hills got back into the scoring act receiving a pass from Young to score on a backdoor cut.

Greene followed that up with another 3-pointers to give the Rams their biggest lead of the contest at 45-33.

The Orphans did cut the lead to six points on two separate occasions late in the fourth quarter.

Gabriel King, a reserve guard for Coach Gillespie, hit two fourth quarter 3-pointers.

His 'bomb' from the right corner with 1:08 remaining got his team to within six at 62-56.

However the Rams took advantage of the Centralia fouling predicament with Hills, Young, Michael Doggan and Deaton working together to make 7-of-8 free throws in the final minute of play.

The Rams knocked down a mind-boggling 21-of-24 free throws in the fourth quarter and 28-of-35 for the game.

Coach Creel's club, who had failed to 'close the deal' in several close games this season against the 'Top Dawgs' in the South, polished off the Orphans on this night.

Besides Young's 23 three other Rams (Doggan, Deaton and Hills) added 10 points each.

Crosby led the Orphans with 18 while Parker came off the bench to score 14.

Shaw, a DI recruit headed to Southern Illinois University next season, added 13 but was held in check by the Rams defense for most of the night.

"Mike (Hills) did a great job defending him tonight and we got him a lot of help when he needed it," added Creel."This is such an emotional game for us with the rivalry and all. Plus with Gus (Gillespie, former MV assistant coach) over there now it makes it a bit tougher. But this is a win these kids deserved with all the hard work we have done this season."

Mt. Vernon

Centralia (59) - King 0 3 0-0 9, Moss 1 0 3-3 5, Crosby 5 2 2-2 18, Shaw 4 1 2-3 13, Parker 5 0 4-7 14.
2FG-15, 3FG-6, FT-11-15, PF-26.
Mount Vernon (69) - Doggan 1 0 8-12 10, Greene 0 2 2-2 8, Young 3 3 8-9 23, Hills 3 0 4-6 10, Upchurch 1 2 0-0 8, Deaton 2 0 6-6 10.
2FG-10, 3FG-7, FT-28-35, PF-18.
Fouled Out - Westbrook, Parker, Moss - Centralia.
Technical Fouls - None.