By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams play for the regional title against a foe that throttled them just a week ago.
Carbondale (18-9) hammered Mt. Vernon 73-50 last Friday in the regular season finale for both teams. Now the top two seeds in the 3A regional meet for tonight’s regional championship.
“It’s nice to get a chance at Carbondale again after last Friday night to get a chance to get that bad taste out of our mouth,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
The blowout win for the Terriers came after the Rams beat Carbondale in Changnon Gymnasium earlier this season. Gamber said his Rams are the underdog for the matchup on the Terriers’ home court. Mt. Vernon enters the game still searching for its first win in an opponent’s home gym.
“We’re the underdog. They’ve got the pressure on them,” Gamber said. “Hopefully we can go out play hard and try to compete and get the game into the fourth quarter with a close game.”
The Rams goal, Gamber said, is to limit the Terriers transition opportunities and forced them into their halfcourt offense.
“If we can do that, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance,” Gamber said. “If we can’t if it is an up and down fast-paced game lots of possessions, I think we’re going to have a really difficult time winning.”
Mt. Vernon was without post player Michael Feezer and lost Jarron Liddell to a shoulder injury just after halftime in the most recent meeting. The Terriers piled up 30 points in the final quarter alone and put four players in double figures. Allen Billinger led the group with 14 points. Devontavius Payne and Jordan Kelly added 13 each. Carbondale shot 67 percent from the field.
“Offensively they are really clicking on all cylinders,” Gamber said. “They’re getting contributions from everybody in their lineup. They’re hitting a lot of perimeter shots. They’re getting to the rim. Their pace of play I think (is) exactly where they want it.”
Carbondale, the regional’s top seed enters the final after a convincing win over Marion. Mt. Vernon advanced with a Wednesday night victory over Massac County. The Rams used a balanced attack in the rout over the Patriots.
“I thought all of our guys found ways to help the team even if they weren’t doing the scoring,” Gamber said. “You could say this in a lot of games with Jarron, but I thought Jarron (Wednesday) night helped us as much as anybody as far as taking care of the ball, playing defense. You look in the box score. He doesn’t have a point, but yet he’s so valuable to the team.”
The game is the second straight regional final appearance for the Rams. A season ago, Centralia stifled Mt. Vernon and won the crown with a 22-15 victory.
Tonight’s matchup starts at 7:30 p.m. Mt. Vernon is 15-12 this year.