By Paul Hines
The Rams struggled early against Salem but raced to a 74-47 win Wednesday at the Pyramid Plus Tournament.
“Tonight we were too wild,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “I think we forced some things tonight where we've got to find a balance between it's good to push the ball. It's good to try to score quick, but you've got to do that trying to get a good shot.”
Shakari Hawkins paced the Rams with 29 points. Braden Fitzjerrells was also in double figures with 15. Thirteen of the points came in the second half for Fitzjerrells.
Mt. Vernon's offense struggled to hit shots early in the game against he Wildcats. The spotty shooting allowed Salem to hold a 21-18 edge midway through the second quarter.
“It was a grind,” Gamber said. “I think we've got to do a better job in the first half of when we're not shooting it well, finding other ways to score.”
Mt. Vernon ended the half with an 8-0 run to seize a 26-21 edge. Luke Wilson helped the Rams offense off the bench in the second quarter. The 6-3 junior knocked down a pair of outside shots and had eight points in the period.
“I told Luke after the game, I don't think we win without what he gave us,” Gamber said. “In a time that we could not find anything offensively, he came and hit three shots and gave us the lift that we desperately needed.”
Mt. Vernon owned the second half and slammed Salem in the third quarter to open up a big lead. The Rams scored 25 points in the quarter. The trio of Hawkins, Fitzjerrells and Jake Pike accounted for 23 of the points. The surge gave the Rams a 51-33 cushion going into the final quarter.
The Rams played most of the game without Gilwan Nelson, who made his first start of the season after coming off the bench in the opening two games of the tournament. Nelson injured his left ankle about two minutes into the contest. Gamber said Nelson could play Friday night.
“It was just a re-injury,” Gamber said. “He missed two practices right at the beginning of the year with that same ankle.
“We're a lot better with Gilwan than without him.”
Mt. Vernon is 3-0 this season and faces Collinsville at 7 p.m. tonight.