By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON — Scott Gamber said the week before the Rams game with Centralia is also different than the rest of the season.
“It's a big week when Mt. Vernon-Centralia play,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “No matter what you do as a coach to try and downplay that it's Centralia week, it's a different feel at practice. There's a little different energy. The day of the game is a lot different. They'll be fans from both sides at the game that that may be the only game of the year they go to.”
The two rivals clash at Centralia on Friday night. The Orphans enter the game with a 14-1 overall record and were winners of the Centralia Holiday Tournament. The Orphans beat Alton in the final. The Orphans were also tied for ninth in the latest Associated Press 3A rankings.
Centralia enters the game with a veteran roster that includes players who have been starting for several seasons. Seniors Jake Wood, Chase Alcorn and Jerod Simmons-Young are all critical offensive options for the Orphans.
“Depending on how the conference season goes, Jake Wood's a kid that could be conference MVP at the end of the season,” Gamber said.
Wood brings bulk in the post but has the ability to hurt teams from the outside. Simmons-Young and Alcorn both bring an athletic presence to the court.
“They've got three veteran seniors that have played a ton of South Seven action and been very good,” Gamber said. “They are a really quality basketball team. Any Centralia team, they don't make many mistakes. This one, especially.”
The matchup is the first South Seven Conference game for the Rams since a massive blowout loss at Carbondale. Gamber said the game at Centralia will be another test for his team in an extremely hostile environment.
“We're going to have a lot of adversity Friday night on the road at Centralia, and it's something we've struggled with and something we're going to have to get better at,” Gamber said.
Gamber added ball possession and excellent shot selection are keys to the matchup.
“If you do not treasure every possession and make sure you're getting a good shot, they can blast you,” Gamber said.
Friday's matchup starts with the junior varsity game at 6:15 p.m.