By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
The Rams dictated the tempo of Friday's game against Cahokia for a half.
But the Comanches claimed control in the second behind a big third quarter from Darius Austin to seize a 44-40 win.
“It's very frustrating,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I felt like at times we had four guys really buying in and you have to have all five pieces fully on the same page.”
Jake Pike led Mt. Vernon with 15 points, and Braden Fitzjerrells added 11.
Darius Austin led Cahokia with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Mt. Vernon slowed the tempo early on and had success. The Rams racked up an early edge, keeping Cahokia's quick striking offense silent for the most of the opening half.
Jake Pike ended the opening quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Rams a 9-3 edge. Mt. Vernon's margin grew to 19-10 after Braden Fitzjerrells hit a pair of free throws late in the second quarter.
Cahokia closed the gap to 19-14 at halftime.
Austin didn't score a point in the opening half but poured in 14 in the third quarter. The offense included a big run from the Comanches in the quarter. Mt. Vernon led 28-21, but Cahokia rattled off the next 10 points to claim a 31-28 lead. Austin ended the run with a free throw.
“Austin hit some nice shots,” Gamber said. “Austin hurt us.”
He ended the third with a jumper to put Cahokia up 33-31. Mt. Vernon aided the Comanches with seven turnovers in the period.
“We went through a really bad stretch in the third quarter, but look at the end of the third quarter you're thinking we had a bad stretch and we're right there,” Gamber said.
Fitzjerrells opened the final period with a 3-pointer to make the score 34-33 Rams. Neither team scored for the next three minutes before the advantage began to swing back and forth.
Gary Hickman gave Cahokia a lead with 1:51 left after a layup. Austin added two more free throw to pad the edge to 39-36.
Mt. Vernon had a chance to tie the game at 40 with less than a minute left, but Fitzjerrells' driving layup missed. Mt. Vernon's final chance to tie came in the closing seconds. Doug Gardner grabbed a rebound with Cahokia up 42-40, but he stumbled and the ball rolled out of bounds to Cahokia.
Mt. Vernon is 12-9 this season and 1-6 in South Seven Conference action. The Rams travel to Jerseyville tonight.