By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
The Rams get their first conference road test on Friday night since a loss at Cahokia.
Mt. Vernon travels south to Carbondale where the Rams clash with a talent-rich Terriers squad. A season ago Carbondale knocked off Mt. Vernon in the regional final. This year Carbondale enters the game with just a pair of losses (Centralia and Edwardsville). Carbondale is 2-1 in South Seven play.
“They're a very dangerous team, and with them being at Carbondale is that much more dangerous,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
Carbondale returns a squad loaded with experience and has several players who have been starting for several seasons. Davontavious Payne and Allen Billinger are both primary offensive options for the Terriers. Elijah Bidinger is returning from an injury, and Jordan Kelly gives Carbondale a legitimate post presence at 6-6. Carbondale also added transfer Lavonte Sutton, who scored 23 points against Marion.
“They have a lot of different options I guess is one of the more concerning things,” Gamber said. “They can score in a lot of different ways.
“They can score inside. They can shoot the ball, and they're extremely athletic.”
Gamber added Payne is the Terriers best player this season.
“The simplest offense can tear you up when you have a guy like Payne,” Gamber said.
Carbondale is part of the well-represented South Seven Conference in the season's first regular season Associated Press state basketball rankings. In 3A, Centralia (tied for fourth) and Cahokia (eighth) were both in the top 10. The Terriers and Althoff also received votes.
The Rams return home to Changnon Gymnasium for a Saturday matchup with St. Louis' Northwest Academy, which is 7-5 this season. Gamber said Northwest Academy will challenge the Rams with their athleticism and size. Northwest possesses post players William Warren (6-8) and DaMarkis Gary (6-5), who will test the undersized Rams. Gary is the team's leading scorer.
“He does a really good job (of) both attacking the basket and posting up,” Gamber said.
Friday's matchup starts with the junior varsity game at 6:15 p.m. Saturday has a 6 p.m. junior varsity start time.