By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON — The Rams basketball team bounced back from a big conference loss with a 68-49 win over St. Louis Northwest Academy on Saturday night.
Shakari Hawkins helped the Rams offense start strong with 17 of his game high 24 points in the first half. Mt. Vernon also took advantage of foul trouble that sent Northwest's best player DeMarkis Gary to the bench early. He still managed to lead the Hornets with 15 points.
“He does a great job of creating space and getting the ball inside,” Gamber said. “He's got nice moves when he gets it in there. He's a nice player. We were fortunate he got into a little bit of foul trouble in the first half.”
Gary was in foul trouble throughout the game and was sent to the bench two minutes into the game with two fouls.
The Rams took advantage with Gary on the bench and jumped to a 17-5 first quarter lead. Hawkins relentlessly attacked the basket for the Rams.
“I thought Shakari played great,” Gamber said. “In the first half, when it was really up in the air, I thought Shakari did a great job of getting to the rim. I thought he was a lot more aggressive.”
Northwest whittled down the Rams lead in the second quarter. Three times the Hornets closed within four points. Each time, the Rams matched their scoring run. The final time came just before the half when free throws from Barion Jones made the score 28-24. The Rams ended the half with a 5-0 run. Jake Pike hit a shot. Then Hawkins and Pike combined for three free throws to give the Rams a 33-24 halftime edge.
The second half saw the Rams' margin grow.
Braden Fitzjerrells, who finished with 22 points, put Mt. Vernon up 40-29 with a pair of free throws on the heels of a 3-pointer midway through the period.
“I thought Braden did a really good job of picking his spots tonight,” Gamber said. “I was really proud of him for bouncing back after (the Carbondale game). I thought tonight when he decided to go attack, it was the right time, and when he kicked it was the right time.”
Mt. Vernon held a comfortable margin the rest of third and a double-digit lead the entire fourth quarter.
Mt. Vernon is 11-4 this season and travels to Centralia on Friday.