MT. VERNON —
The Rams basketball team will get its biggest test of the young season with a road trip to Cahokia on Friday night.
A season ago the Comanches finished runner-up to Morgan Park for the 3A state title. They lost Keenan Minor but entered the season with a pair of Division-I signees. Friday's game will be the South Seven Conference opener for both teams.
“They just have a lot of pieces and trying to decide how best to guard is a big challenge, but then just as important as that is being able to handle their pressure,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
Cahokia's top offensive options are Carleton Rivers, who signed with Drake, and Darius Austin, who is headed to Missouri at Kansas City. The Comanches also added a Belleville West transfer Tarkus Ferguson and return 6-5 Gary Hickman.
Austin has presented a difficult matchup for the Rams over the past few years. He brings a legitimate post presence but also possesses the ability to drive to the basket from the perimeter. Gamber said he's added more range to his jump shot as well.
“He's long. He can get to the rim,” Gamber said. “But he's also developed in the last year and a half a nice perimeter game as well to where as his sophomore year you could just stay seven, eight feet off him.”
Rivers creates his own problems for the Rams defense. He brings 6-3 size to his guard spot.
“He does a lot of the things this year that Minor did last year for them where he can hurt you from the outside,” Gamber said. “He can also hurt you around the basket.”
Cahokia started its season with a trip to the Lincoln tournament over Thanksgiving. The Comanches enter the game with an even 3-3 record.
Mt. Vernon played its first game since Nov. 30 on Tuesday night against Mascoutah. The Rams held off the Indians in a 72-67 score fest that saw both offenses dominate the game. Mt. Vernon is unbeaten at 6-0 this season.
Friday's matchup starts with the junior varsity game at 6:15 p.m.