By PAUL HINES
Mt. Vernon used a strong second half to beat Mattoon 64-49 in the Salem Invitational Tournament on Saturday morning.
“Offensively I was really proud of our kids,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I thought our kids did a really nice job of getting to the basket. I thought our kids did a really nice job of taking high percentage shots.”
Trevor Flota ended the first half with a buzzer beating 3-pointer to give the Rams a 33-26 lead. Braden Fitzjerrells started the second half with a long-range shot that pushed Mt. Vernon’s edge to double digits.
“Trevor hitting that shot was huge,” Gamber said. “(It’s) such a big difference between going in (at half) up four with no momentum.
“That was a big, big shot that Trevor hit right there.”
The Rams had four players in double figures with Flota’s 14 points leading the team. Shakari Hawkins added 13. Jake Pike finished with 12, and Fitzjerrells added 10.
Mattoon made a run to slice Mt. Vernon’s lead to five at 39-34, but Feezer and Flota followed with back-to-back buckets that made the score 43-34 midway through the third quarter. Hawkins tacked on a free throw to push the margin back to 10. In the fourth quarter, the Rams led by as much as 19 points.
Mt. Vernon used a zone defense against the Green Wave throughout the game.
“We’re a man team, but sometimes you have to put away your pride and go with what’s working best,” Gamber said. “We’ve talked about it. I think it may be something that helps us.”
Mt. Vernon is 10-8 this season and plays in the consolation final at 6:30 p.m.