Mt. Vernon ended with a split on the opening day of the Effingham-Teutopolis Christmas Classic on Friday.
The Rams opened with a loss to Teutopolis 55-42 but knocked off Mattoon 64-48 in the nightcap.
“I thought our kids just a million times better getting into our offense, running our sets,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said after the Mattoon win.
Mt. Vernon used a strong second half to pull away from Mattoon in the second game. The Rams were able to silence Mattoon's burly center Tanner Scott in the second half. Scott hurt the Rams for a dozen points in the opening half but finished with a modest 16.
“I thought our kids did a really nice job helping on (Scott) after that initial start,” Gamber said.
The Rams also used the athletic ability of forward Shakari Hawkins. The senior knifed his way into the Green Wave defense throughout the game. He and Braden Fitzjerrells finished with 22 each to pace the Rams.
After a close battle in the opening half, Mt. Vernon used a late run to take a 29-20 edge into halftime. The Rams extended the margin with a big third quarter. Hawkins scored 11 of Mt. Vernon's 23 points in the period, and the Rams coasted to a 52-36 lead. Jake Pike capped the quarter with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that rattled around and down. Pike finished with 15 points.
“That's the best quarter we've played probably since the Thanksgiving tournament,” Gamber said. “We desperately needed that.”
Mattoon never threatened in the final period.
The Rams are 8-3 this season.
Teutopolis 55, Mt. Vernon 42
The Wooden Shoes blew open a close game with a 16-0 run in the final 4:42 against the Rams.
“(It was) lack of toughness, lack of heart,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I don't know what else there is to say because you don't finish out a game like that if you have either one of those, and that was very poor.”