As he bid farewell to a talented group of seniors Sunday, third-year Mt. Carmel basketball coach Tyler Buss told the 2013-2014 team gathered for the awards banquet that they were “the first group that felt like my group.”

It was one of the most successful teams of recent memory. The Aces’ 22 wins were the most this century, topping the 21 produced by the super-sectional team of 2007.

The season-opening championship of the Lawrenceville Basketball Classic was the first in school history. In January, the title at the Carmi-White County Invitational was their first since 1981.

After winning the IHSA Class 2A regional crown and getting past  Carterville in the sectional semifinal, the Aces got off to a slow start against Nashville in the final before putting a second-half scare into a Hornets team that wound up second in the state tournament.

“The bigger the game the better we played,” Buss said.

It was the first Mt. Carmel team to post a winning record in six years, with enough margin to boost Buss’ overall mark over the .500 mark at 45-43.

Reece Metcalf, who finished with 1,475 points during his Hilltop career, was chosen by teammates as the MVP for the third straight year.

Buss said Metcalf “was a rock to our team and a rock to me.”

Thomas Allen, who had a knack for “hitting big shots,” was selected as the winner of the “Golden Ace” award.

Levi Laws, who joined Metcalf in the 1,000-point club during the season, won the award for top offensive player.

Buss took note of Laws double-digit assist average and how “rare” it is. The delivery marvel outdid himself against Boonville in January.

Laws had 23 assists against the Pioneers, the second-highest total ever in an Illinois high school game.

Six-foot-5 center C.J. Diel, who accumulated over 100 career blocked shots, was named the defensive player of the year.

Caleb Kline was named the most improved player by coaches while Austin Thompson was tabbed as the winner of the 6th man award.

Metcalf and Laws both landed spots on all-state teams. On the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association team, Metcalf was named to the fourth team while Laws was Honorable Mention. On the Associated Press team, Laws was an HM choice.

Both were named to the Big 8 Conference team as well.

At least the Aces of next year will have Laws to build around, though he will be the only returning starter.

“A lot of production will need to be replaced,” Buss told the underclass hopefuls while encouraging them to work hard in the offseason.

“How bad do you want to be successful?”

In his opening remarks, Buss thanked his wife, Samantha, as well as MCHS administrators, coaches and parents.

Freshman/sophomore coach Matt McCarty recapped his team’s season. He had 13 freshman and three sophomores on the squad. Elijah Hadra and Justin Carpenter were both named “rookies of the year.”

Assistant coach Kyle Buss also discussed the 7-6 season put together by the junior varsity team. Deric Wright, who Kyle Buss said reminded him “of me when I played,” was named the team MVP.