By Paul Hines
BELLEVILLE — Mt. Vernon's boys basketball team tried to battle back all game Friday against Althoff, but the Crusaders prevailed 63-55.
“We played way too fast,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I'm sick of saying the same things every game and not changing. We played way too fast tonight.
“If we don't change shot selection and pace of play we'll maybe beat Lovejoy and that's it.
“If I'm not a good enough coach to get that done, then that's my fault.”
Althoff led the entire game. Mt. Vernon tied the game several times in the opening quarter and pulled to within a point in the third. But Althoff countered with a big run to push away the Rams comeback attempt. Prior to the Althoff run, Shakari Hawkins went to the bench with a foot injury.
“That's when you have to be really patient,” Gamber said. “You've got to burn clock. You're already one man short with Braden (Fitzjerrells) not being here. Then Shakari goes out with an injury. We let them go on a (5-0) run during that time period because we came down and shot it quick.”
Hawkins led the Rams with 26 points. Jake Pike added 15. Brendon Gooch finished with 19 for the Crusaders, and Kevin Renner added 16.
Althoff took a slim 11-9 edge into the second quarter, and built its margin in the second period. Gooch gave Althoff a 20-12 edge with a 3-pointer with five minutes left in the opening half. Althoff took a 27-23 lead into halftime.
Mt. Vernon clawed back into the game in the third quarter. Down 29-23, Mt. Vernon ripped off a 5-0 run. Hawkins, Bryce Hunter and Dylan Reeves all helped the Rams close the gap to 29-28.
Althoff answered with a 11-2 run to push the margin to double digits.
Mt. Vernon managed another run and closed the deficit down to 50-46 in the final quarter after a free throw from Luke Wilson. But the Rams never got any closer.
Braden Fitzjerrells missed the game with a wrist sprain for the Rams. A top offensive option for Althoff, Jordan Goodwin, was also out of action Friday.
Mt. Vernon is 12-8 this season and 1-5 in South Seven Conference play.