By Paul Hines
The Rams basketball team finished off a perfect week at the Pyramid Plus Tournament with a 77-39 win over Soldan on Saturday.
The matchup pitted the unbeaten Rams against the winless Tigers. Soldan kept the game close early, but Mt. Vernon started piling up the offense as the game move on.
“They're tough to play against,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I think we've got to find a way to come out better, especially in a game where you may feel like you should win.”
The Rams entered the final game of the round-robin tournament after winning at the buzzer against previously unbeaten Collinsville.
“We're coming off such a high,” Gamber said. “(It's) early in the season buildup looking at Collinsville, and then yes I think if we had been playing somebody that had two or three wins I think it would have been different.”
Tournament scoring leader Shakari Hawkins paced the Rams with 26 points. He finished the five-game stretch averaging 23 points. Jake Pike joined him in double figures against Soldan with 16, and Gilwan Nelson added 12.
The Rams hammered the Tigers on the glass, racking up a 46-20 advantage. Hawkins led Mt. Vernon with 10, and Nelson added nine.
Mt. Vernon's offense scuffled through the opening quarter, but the Rams managed to seize a 18-12 edge after a Pike layup with two seconds left in the quarter.
“If we do this against Althoff (Friday) night where we come out and go through the motions in the first half, we're going to be down 20 at the half,” Gamber said.
The Rams rolled over Soldan in the final three quarters, outscoring the Tigers by 32 points.
Hawkins pushed the Rams advantage to double figures with a pair of free throws to make the score 30-20 with 2:41 left in the half.
Mt. Vernon took a 36-23 edge into halftime. Nelson started the second half with a layup to make the score 38-23. The early points ignited a big quarter for the Rams. Mt. Vernon scored 19 in the eight-minute span and took its advantage past the 20-point mark.
“We had a really nice second half,” Gamber said. “You just wish you had that right from the beginning.”
Mt. Vernon is 5-0 this season and opens South Seven Conference play Friday at home against Althoff.