MOUNT VERNON — Drives to the bucket. Open 3-pointers. Mid-range jumpers. Contested shots in the lane.
No matter what kind of attempt at the goal Carbondale selected, it found the rim or the backboard — or sometimes both — for about nine consecutive minutes Friday night. Against any opponent, that’s asking for trouble.
Against a top 10 team in Class 3A, that’s pretty much guaranteeing a loss.
Getting a game-high 25 points from versatile 6-2 junior Amir Spann, 9th-ranked Mount Vernon established a 19-3 first quarter lead and never looked back in a 57-38 South Seven Conference win at Changnon Gym.
Tavaris Macklin scored 14 points to pace the Terriers (5-2, 0-2), who made just 13-of-52 field goal tries against a taller opponent. And they had to work to get to 25 percent for the night. At halftime, when they trailed 28-9, Carbondale was only 3-of-23 from the field.
“It all starts with the focus and the mental effort to start the game, and I don’t think it was all there for some reason tonight,” Terriers coach Jim Miller said. “Now the second half, the light switch came on and we competed at a high level.”
Carbondale, using lineups that often had three players under 6-0 and no one taller than 6-1, outrebounded the Rams (7-1, 2-0) 16-14 in the second half. But it just couldn’t get closer than 15 points, with that occurring twice in the fourth quarter.
The Terriers possess nice athleticism and are capable of disrupting an opponent’s offense for multiple minutes at a time. But with no back-to-the-bucket threat most games, they are dependent on jump-shooting and drives to fuel their offense.
After Austin Reliford swished a 3-pointer on its first possession, Carbondale couldn’t get the engine started. It missed 14 straight shots before Davaris Macklin converted a 3-point play early in the second quarter.
By that time, Mount Vernon owned a 25-6 lead. Although the Rams’ level of play dropped perceptibly over the final 2 ½ quarters, they were never in any danger of blowing a double-figure lead.
“We talked about this last week, but when we don’t shoot the ball well, we’re going to look awful bad,” Miller said, referring to a 59-47 loss on Nov. 30 to Centralia in which the Terriers made only 32.5 percent of their shots.
Meanwhile, Mount Vernon sank nearly 49 percent of their field goal attempts, including eight 3-pointers in 19 tries. It also had the best player on the court in Spann, who needed just 12 shots to rack up his points.
Spann is a bad matchup for most teams, but especially so for Carbondale. Jakeba Burleigh and Davaris Macklin guarded Spann most of the game, but neither one was tall enough or strong enough to keep him from muscling his way into the lane. Spann also hauled in 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“He’s just a tremendous athlete who has quickness and strength, and can put the ball on the floor,” Miller said. “He shoots the ball with a lot of confidence and has grown into this position. He’s worked at it and gotten better, and he’s a force.”
Simon Wilson added 11 points for the Rams, who have a week off before a marquee South Seven matchup at home next Friday night with arch-rival Centralia. Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel worked the second half like a guy starting to get ready for a big game, fussing at his team over their inability to rebound or keep the ball in front of them consistently.
“They’re coming in here as an underdog and they’re going to be tough for us,” Creel said. “They run their system very well, they’re very well-coached and they have something for everything. We just have to play hard and match their intensity, and we have to be patient.”
The Terriers have no time to dwell on this loss. They head to Waterloo today for a 2 p.m. tipoff.