By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams overcame a slow start offensively and held off Waterloo for a 49-41 win Saturday night.
“I’m as excited as I was (Friday) night because you have to take every win you can get, and no we didn’t play great but we could have played not very good and lost,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
Waterloo held the Rams scoreless for the opening three minutes of action, and Mt. Vernon finished the quarter hitting three of nine shots from the field. The sluggish start left the game tied at six going into the second.
Mt. Vernon edged in front and took a 14-12 lead midway through the second quarter before ending the half with an offensive burst. Braden Fitzjerrells started the scoring with a 3-pointer. The freshman led the Rams with 12 points on five of six shooting from the field. A free throw each from Michael Feezer and Trevor Flota made the score 19-14 with 1:18 left in the half. Jarron Liddell pushed the lead to 21-14 after a breakaway basket. QwyMann Cantley ended the half with a score to give the Rams a 23-16 edge.
“That was huge,” Gamber said. “They had controlled everything. We’re able to get a couple baskets there. We got that steal, got the layup. That was a big difference.”
Travis Mitchell gave the Rams a layup to start the second half and put his team on the brink of a double-digit lead. It was the first of three times Mt. Vernon had a nine-point edge which eventually led to a 12-point lead. But Waterloo chipped away at the deficit.
“It’s hard to shake a team when you can’t get any stops,” Gamber said. “I’m really frustrated with our defensive effort. I thought we let them throw it in to their big kid (Justin Kretchmer) way too easy.
“We weren’t helping like we’re supposed to. We had no backside help off it.”
Waterloo’s Zach Schaab closed the third with a steal and layup to cut Mt. Vernon’s lead to 35-30. The Bulldogs closed the gap to 37-34 early in the final quarter before Mt. Vernon responded.
Flota hit six of seven free throws down the stretch to help Mt. Vernon hang onto the lead.
Kretchmer led Waterloo with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Mt. Vernon is 6-3 this season and hosts Cairo on Tuesday.