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Wildcats win thriller over Mt. Vernon

  • Mt. Vernon's Zach Williams attempts a shot at the buzzer.

    Mt. Vernon's Zach Williams attempts a shot at the buzzer.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Terrell Henderson and O'Shea Hardin battle for the jump ball.

    Terrell Henderson and O'Shea Hardin battle for the jump ball.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Korey Houston defends O'Shea Hardin.

    Korey Houston defends O'Shea Hardin.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Cole Schafer works in the post.

    Cole Schafer works in the post.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Jaden Lacy guards O'Shea Hardin.

    Jaden Lacy guards O'Shea Hardin.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Marion coach Gus Gillespie watches from the sideline.

    Marion coach Gus Gillespie watches from the sideline.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Korey Houston gathers a loose ball underneath Terrell Henderson.

    Korey Houston gathers a loose ball underneath Terrell Henderson.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Gus Gillespie calls out instructions.

    Gus Gillespie calls out instructions.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Cole Schafer takes a shot against O'Shea Hardin.

    Cole Schafer takes a shot against O'Shea Hardin.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Korey Houston runs into O'Shea Hardin.

    Korey Houston runs into O'Shea Hardin.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Amir Spann glides in for a dunk.

    Amir Spann glides in for a dunk.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • David Fletcher passes a loose ball to Terrell Henderson.

    David Fletcher passes a loose ball to Terrell Henderson.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Justin Saddoris scores with three seconds left.

    Justin Saddoris scores with three seconds left.
    Justin Walker Photo

 
 
updated: 12/2/2017 3:18 AM

MT. VERNON -- Justin Saddoris has been a consistent part of the Marion Wildcats boys basketball program for a while, but now as a senior he seems to have taken everything up another notch.

Saddoris showed steady leadership during the Pyramid Plus tournament and again Friday night by providing the winning basket in Marion's 45-44 win over Mt. Vernon at the new Changnon Gymnasium.

Saddoris drove the baseline and put in a layup with three seconds left for the final points, after splitting two free throws with 17.7 remaining and seeing his teammates gather the miss in a frantic scramble to provide the final chance.

Saddoris was also a big part of Marion's win over Mt. Vernon exactly a week earlier during the Pyramid Plus, which was ultimately won by the Rams due to a free-throw percentage tiebreaker.

"You've got two teams battling it out and it's about someone making a play and Justin has made a play the last two Friday nights," said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. "Justin put in a lot of time over the summer and fall and is excited about playing. He's a nice strong guard for us."

The game started with Mt. Vernon jumping out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter, but the Wildcats chipped away in the second period as Jaden Lacy scored eight points to make it 20-18 at halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lacy gave the Wildcats their first lead early in the third and another triple by Lacy tied it at 25 after the Rams went on a mini-run.

A putback from Saddoris and baskets from Terrell Henderson and Lacy, with the help of a big block by Korey Houston, and a pair of free throws by Cole Schafer allowed Marion to take a 33-28 lead into the fourth.

Saddoris hit a pair of free throws and then turned a steal into a layup after the Rams again scored four straight, then Lacy split a pair of tosses for a 37-32 lead.

Seconds later, at the 4:41 mark, Lacy was called for his fifth foul while jumping for an inbounds pass and left the game with 17 points.

Mt. Vernon's Zach Williams drilled a trey and Marion answered when Henderson scored off a nifty pass from Jackson Connor, then Houston drilled a huge 3-pointer from the corner to put Marion up 42-37 with 1:40 remaining.

"That was a huge shot," Gillespie said. "Korey had to play when Jaden went out and I thought Korey grew up a lot in that stretch."

A runner by O'Shea Hardin and another triple by Williams around a missed bonus try from Saddoris tied the score and Mt. Vernon went in front on a breakaway slam dunk by Amir Spann with 30 seconds left.

But the Wildcats turned to Saddoris, who made it to the foul line and made the first with 17.7 left but missed the second. Schafer dove on the floor and got the ball to David Fletcher, who lobbed a pass to Henderson that allowed Gillespie to call timeout with 9.3 showing on the clock.

Saddoris put in the winning basket with his baseline drive and the game ended on an awkward sliding shot by Williams at the buzzer.

Lacy's 17 points were a game-high. Saddoris and Henderson both finished with eight. Schafer had four and both Houston and Connor had three.

"We managed to find a way without Jaden on the floor," Gillespie said. "He's so electric and does so many things for us but he's also a great teammate. He was on the bench coaching it up."

Williams, Hardin and Spann all had nine points for the Rams. Weston Brockhouse hit a pair of 3-pointers in Mt. Vernon's early run but ended the game with eight points.

"Any time you win on the road in this conference," Gillespie said, "you've got to appreciate it."

A few miles up the road, Centralia beat Carbondale, 57-48, behind a 24-point performance from Jordan Maines that included six 3-pointers, to improve to 5-0. Carbondale is now 1-1 in the league after previously beating Belleville Althoff in a tournament game that counted in the conference.

Marion plays two home games next weekend. The Wildcats host Cahokia in a South Seven game on Friday, then welcome Massac County on Saturday.

 
 
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