By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
Scott Gamber will be looking for a more controlled style of play when his Rams team takes the basketball court this weekend.
The Rams host South Seven Conference foe Cahokia on Friday night before making a long road trip to Jerseyville the following evening.
“We've got to play smarter,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “It's not an issue of playing harder. I think our kids played really hard Friday night at Althoff.
“I think we have to make some strides and play a little bit more under control in a style that can help us win. And then whatever happens Friday night, Jerseyville's going to be a tough play to go Saturday."
Gamber said ball movement and shot selection have been key topics this week in practice.
“Althoff took things away,” Gamber said. “That doesn't mean you break it away immediately. If they take the first thing away, keep going see if you can get option two, option three. If you don't get that, then reset it.”
The two-time defending conference champion Comanches beat the Rams in Cahokia. The Comanches won the January matchup 69-54. Darius Austin, who scored 21 points, led a fastbreak offense that finished with nine offensive rebounds and six dunks.
The game marked the Rams first loss of the season. Including the defeat to the Comanches the Rams are 6-8 since opening the season 6-0. The stretch includes three consecutive losses after an opening round win at the Salem Invitational Tournament over the host Wildcats.
“We've lost four out of five,” Gamber said. “We haven't played bad in all those four losses. In fact, I thought the Edwardsville and the Centralia games were two of our better games of the year, but the Effingham and Althoff game I didn't feel like we played very well.”
Mt. Vernon will get a boost from the return of starting guard Braden Fitzjerrells. The sophomore injured his wrist in the Rams loss to Effingham. The right wrist was originally diagnosed as broken but downgrade to a sprain several days later. Fitzjerrells missed the Rams loss at Belleville Althoff on Friday night.
Saturday the Rams travel to Jerseyville. Kyle Steckel, Luke Shively and Jake Varble all score in double figures for the Panthers.
Friday's game starts with the junior varsity matchup at 6:15 p.m. Saturday begins at 5 p.m.