By PAUL HINES
The Rams tried to battle out of an early hole but couldn’t come back against the Wildcats on Friday night.
Marion won 54-45. The Wildcats used a 10-0 run to start the game and held off a second-half surge from the Rams. Marion scored 23 points in the first quarter to open up a huge advantage Mt. Vernon never overcame.
Marion took a 23-8 edge into the second quarter and held a double-digit halftime lead.
“You go back to the Pyramid Tournament, and I think (defense) was our weak point and it certainly was tonight,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said.
“For someone that tries to pride themselves on their defense, we’re losing on that end of the floor, and that’s not acceptable. We had enough offense to win the basketball game.”
The Wildcats catalyst was Colton Carter who finished with eight points in the opening quarter. He was one of three Marion players in double figures in the game. Jawan Tucker led Marion with 13 points. Carter and Carsen Cash both added 11 each.
After halftime, Mt. Vernon tried to slice away at the Marion lead. The Rams cut the deficit to 36-30 after a pair of Trevor Flota free throws.
Jarron Liddell moved Mt. Vernon within five with another trip to the line. Flota ended the third-quarter offense with a layup to made the score 38-35. The Rams had a chance to slip within a point at the start of the fourth quarter but a lob play for a layup resulted in a miss.
“When you get down that much, it takes so much to energy to get back in the game,” Gamber said. “It’s really hard to continue that, and that kind of happened there.”
Marion built its advantage back to 42-37 and even had a double-digit edge at 52-41 in the final minute of the game.
“Right now we need to learn how to win on the road,” Gamber said. “I don’t think we quite understand how good you have to play and how hard you have to play to win in those games.”
Flota led the Rams with 20 points. Freshman Braden Fitzjerrells made his first start of the season and was also in double figures with 12 points.
Mt. Vernon is 7-4 this season and 2-2 in the South Seven Conference.
Marion improved to 5-4 this year and is 1-3 in conference play.
“I think the margin of error in every game we play is going to be tough,” Gamber said.