By PAUL HINES
Mt. Vernon searched for the right rhythm but never found it in a 44-28 loss to the Herrin Lady Tigers in Tuesday’s regional semifinal.
“We were trying to drink coffee with a fork,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Lonnon said. “We could not get anything going. We couldn’t get any momentum. I tried everything I knew of.”
The Lady Rams shook off a slow start to close within a point at halftime. But Herrin exited the half and built a seven-point edge late in the third. Herrin took a double-digit edge in the final quarter, and the Lady Rams were forced to foul late in the game. The Lady Tigers hit 11 of 14 attempts from the foul line in the final quarter.
“We did everything we could tonight and nothing worked,” Lonnon said. “And sometimes that just happens.”
Mt. Vernon struggled from the field, hitting nine of its 32 shots. Herrin stymied the Lady Rams offense with zone defense.
“When you can’t hit shots against zone and you can’t throw it inside, you’re in trouble,” Lonnon said.
Behind Abby Horn’s 14 rebounds, the Lady Tigers doubled up Mt. Vernon on the boards.
“We’re a little team with a nice sized center but outside of Hannah we’re small,” Lonnon said. “We are a small, tiny 3A basketball team. That hurt us tonight too.”
Kelby Kujawa was the lone Lady Rams in double figures with 10 points. Kujawa opened the game with three consecutive buckets from the field but couldn’t connect for the remainder of the game.
“They covered Kelby up after the first two threes she made,” Lonnon said. “Then that had to fall on some other shooters, and we didn’t hit. They had us dead in the water offensively.”
Herrin opened the game with a 7-2 spurt. Mt. Vernon’s only lead of the game came after Kujawa hit her second straight 3-pointer that put the Lady Rams up 8-7 with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
Herrin opened the second half with a 7-0 run to take a commanding 23-15 edge that left the Lady Rams trying to fight back for the rest of the game.
Mt. Vernon ended the season with a 20-6 record.
“They should be defined by this season,” Lonnon said. “This was the best season overall in terms of wins and success of what they’ve had in (nine) years.”