By PAUL HINES
Mt. Vernon’s offense collapsed in the second half of a 38-31 regional final loss to the host Terriers on Friday night.
“You can’t have five points in a half,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “You can’t beat anybody doing that let alone a team as good as Carbondale.”
The Rams took a 26-20 halftime edge but shot 1 of 18 from the field in the second half to watch the lead slip away. Jake Pike hit Mt. Vernon’s only field goal of the second half when he stole the ball and scored a layup with five minutes left in the game. The bucket cut Carbondale’s advantage to 31-30. Pike finished with 11 points.
“I thought we got the ball around the rim a lot there in the second half,” Gamber said. “I thought most of our shots were around the rim. We just didn’t finish. I don’t know. I felt like just a little bit of a rush look to everything. I felt like we were in a hurry when really there was no need to be.”
The game was tied at 28 apiece going into the final quarter.
“If you told me going into night you’re going to be tied going into the fourth quarter, I loved our chances,” Gamber said. “I thought you know what we’re going to regroup. We’re going to settle down here, and we’re going to have a really good half, and it went the other way.”
Despite the shooting problems, the Rams stayed close and had chances to close the gap as the clock ticked away. Carbondale’s Shamarc Bursey put the Terriers up 33-30 with a free throw with 2:28 left in the game. Shakari Hawkins tried to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but his shot was blocked.
Down five points with about a minute left, Trevor Flota tried to pull the Rams closer with a long-range shot of his own but missed. Mt. Vernon continually tried to slow the clock with fouls. Carbondale had a pair of chances to extend its lead in the final minute but missed. Again the Rams couldn’t take advantage after a pair of missed layups from Braden Fitzjerrells and Jarron Liddell.
“Still there at the very end we had opportunities to get back in the game and just didn’t do it,” Gamber said.
Mt. Vernon controlled the game throughout the opening half. With the game tied at five all, Mt. Vernon ended the first quarter with a 7-0 run. Fitzjerrells converted a three-point play. Hawkins added a bucket in transition, and Michael Feezer finished the quarter with a buzzer-beating layup.
The Rams continued to dominate the game at the start of the second. Fitzjerrells canned a 3-pointer to make the score 15-5. Carbondale whittle the deficit to three after a trey from Robert Dosier, and the Rams took a 26-20 edge into halftime.
“For the most part, I liked where the game was pace-wise,” Gamber said. “I felt like we limited their transition baskets fairly well.”
Mt. Vernon finished the season 15-13 overall.