By Steven Kochersperger
The Mount Vernon boys’ basketball team took their great season and put it on the line in the Carmi Invitational this past week. They made it to Saturday evening’s championship highlight at Evers Gymnasium at Carmi-White County High School.
However, in the championship game, the Wildcats knew they would have their hands full, facing Illinois’ top-ranked team in Class 2a, the 1901 Harrisburg Bulldogs. The Bulldogs lived up to the hype all week and the championship game was no different. In the end of the tournament, despite the one loss, the Mount Vernon boys fared well and came out with only the one loss to Harrisburg in the Championship game Saturday night.
Ending the Invitational 3-1 is something the Wildcats haven’t done in a while and after a week of basketball in Illinois the Wildcats improved their record to 13-2.
On Monday the Cats played Mount Carmel in the opener of the Invitational. The Wildcats had four players in the double digits in scoring as Mount Vernon overpowered Mount Carmel 88-80. Brian Koch, Bryce Newman, and Colin Varner all had 21 points and Jevin Redman added 10 in the victory. Seniors Koch and Varner went on to be named to the All Tournament team.
On Tuesday the Wildcats played their second opponent of the Invitational, Fairfield. Mount Vernon led early on and had no trouble hanging on for the win 64-48. And for the second game in a row the Wildcats had four players in double digits in scoring. Bryce Newman had 18, Brian Koch had 15, Colin Varner had 12, and Colton Irvin had 10.
On Friday the Cats took on the host of the Invitational, the Carmi-White County Bulldogs. And once again the Cats jumped to a lead and never looked back as they cruised to a 77-48 win. Colin Varner had 26 points while Brian Koch had 19 in the victory.
All this set up a championship matchup Saturday against the 19-1 Harrisburg Bulldogs. Harrisburg’s only loss of the season came in Memphis, Tenn., on the same night Mount Vernon was handed their first loss. The Bulldogs are currently ranked first in class 2A in Illinois and they showed why against the Wildcats.
Mount Vernon came into Saturday’s game hoping to continue their great Invitational and when the game started it looked like they might just surprise, well for the first minute at least. Wildcat Colin Varner took the tip off and hit a three-point basket to put the Cats up 3-0 very early on.
But the Bulldogs would answer with a 10-0 run in the beginning of the game that would give them a lead they could build on the rest of the way. At the end of the first period of play the Wildcats were down only eight points at 22-14 but that’s the closest they would get in the contest.
The Bulldogs took advantage of their size and athleticism as well as Mount Vernon’s poor shooting night and continued to cushion their lead all the way to the final buzzer, beating Mount Vernon 86-56.
“Harrisburg is a good basketball team,” Wildcat coach Marc Hostetter said after the game. ”They go six and seven deep with really good basketball players. We knew they would present challenges and they did. It’s tough when we weren’t hitting shots and playing our game. All teams have these kinds of nights and tonight was our night for this and it was not easy to recover.”
Senior Brian Koch led the way for the Wildcats with 12 points in the championship game while Colin Varner added 11 in the contest.
The Wildcats are now 13-2 on the season and look to build on their great showing in the Carmi Invitational the rest of the way.
“Overall we had some real positives in the Invitational,” Hostetter said.
Harrisburg went 4-0 in the Invitational while Mount Vernon ended up 3-1. Mount Carmel was 2-2, Carmi 1-3, and Fairfield ended the week 0-4. And while the end of the week might not have gone the way the Wildcats would want, they continue to look forward knowing there is still a lot of basketball left in the season.
The Cats are back in action this Friday night as they travel to Gibson Southern to take on the Titans.
By Steven Kochersperger
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