By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams face their biggest rival Centralia in tonight’s first home game of the season.
“They’re a very difficult team to prepare for,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I know we say that every year, but it’s the same every year. They run a lot of really, really good stuff.”
Mt. Vernon and Centralia enter the matchup after playing in a pair of Thanksgiving tournaments. The Rams exited the Marion Pyramid Plus Tournament after splitting their four games with wins against Salem and Herrin.
“We’re coming off the Pyramid tournament where we saw a lot of things that we really need to work on and get better at,” Gamber said. “But then you’re also having to prepare for Centralia at the same time. It’s tough.”
One of the biggest areas of concern for Gamber comes at the defensive end. He said the Orphans have the capability to exploit any weakness.
“I think the thing about Centralia that has really impressed me is that they are willing to work it until they get a really good shot, and it may take them some time off the clock. And they’re willing to play fast if that’s the thing that will benefit them the most.”
Centralia hosted its own tournament that included a loss to Belleville East 53-42.
The Orphans return four of their five starters from a season ago. Jake Woods provides an inside-outside threat for Centralia and led the team with 15 points against Belleville East.
Chase Alcorn, Charlie Evischi, Jerod Simmons-Young and DeOntre Cunningham all bring experience to the lineup. One of Centralia’s strengths to start the season has been shooting from the perimeter.
“I think they’re a little bit different because I think they do have that more so this year the ability to score some points and especially if our defense doesn’t pick up from where it’s been,” Gamber said.
Tonight’s game starts with the junior varsity matchup at 6:15 p.m.