By PAUL HINES
WALTONVILLE — The Rams finish the regular season against the top-ranked team in the upcoming regional.
Mt. Vernon (14-11, 5-4) travels to Carbondale (16-9, 3-6) hoping to generate some confidence before heading into the playoffs. The Rams haven’t won a true road game this season.
“I think that aspect of it is a big game, but it’s one of those nights where you’re going to give it everything you have and do whatever it takes to win,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “But at the end of the day whether we win or lose we’ve really got to get regrouped for Wednesday night’s (regional) game against Massac County.
“That’s the only must-win game we have.”
Due to poor weather conditions, the Rams didn’t practice Thursday after school ended early. Gamber said the team planned to practice this morning. The small break could help the banged up Rams. Braden Fitzjerrells (shoulder), Jake Pike (ankle) and Michael Feezer are all nursing nagging late-season injuries. Feezer’s back could keep him out of tonight’s game, Gamber said.
“I’d say he’s 50-50 on whether or not he’ll play (tonight), probably leaning towards not playing him (tonight) just because I’d hate to play him (and) get it worse heading into a regional,” he said.
Mt. Vernon enters the game after an early week loss at Effingham. Carbondale split its last two games. The Terriers lost their most recent matchup at Centralia 52-36 after beating Althoff 65-49 at home.
The Rams won the first meeting between the two teams 64-54 at Changnon Gymnasium. Devontavius Payne powered the Terriers offense with 23 points. The Rams were able to contain Carbondale’s other two guards Allen Billinger and Elijah Bidinger to a combined nine points.
“I think, obviously, our defense has to start around Payne,” Gamber said. “I think he’s their No. 1 scoring threat. He had a big game against us. He hit quite a few threes. I think we have to do a better job on how we guard him.”
Mt. Vernon put a trio of players in double figures in the victory with Trevor Flota leading the team with 20 points.
Tonight’s matchup starts with the junior varsity game at 6:15 p.m.