MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. – If Mt. Carmel Public Utility could have somehow captured the kinetic energy inside the Hilltop during the first quarter of Saturday’s Class 2A Top Ten battle between the Golden Aces and visiting Eldorado, there would have been enough free power for a month or more in the community.
The game couldn’t possibly have continued at that frenetic pace all afternoon, and it didn’t. Yet, Eldorado found a late spark all its own to pull out a 50-48 non-conference win.
Mt. Carmel (12-3, ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 2A poll) seemed especially amped up, racing out to an 11-4 lead, though heavy involvement in the game’s early histrionics took its toll in the second quarter. Eldorado (16-1, ranked 10th in 2A), outscored a suddenly-listless Aces team, 23-8, in the second period to build a 27-19 lead by halftime.
“Sometimes, myself included, we get going too much with the crowd, and with this and that. We taxed ourselves in that first quarter,” said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss. “That led to a poor second quarter for us, and gave ourselves a pretty big hold to climb out of in that third quarter.”
But climb the Aces did. Though they didn’t get the lead back in the third frame, the Aces managed to tie things at 35-35 on a 3-point field goal by Bret Doan at the close of the frame.
“We made some good adjustments against the diamond press and got some good looks and some stops in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win the ballgame,” Buss said.
Mount Carmel finally regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Blake Golden that made it 42-41, then added to it seconds later on a basket and free throw by 6-foot-8 junior Jackson Marcotte to make it 45-41. Of Golden’s stroke, Buss said “That was the biggest shot of his career. He didn’t even hesitate.”
Trailing 47-43 with time running out, Eldorado, trying to avenge a 69-52 loss to the Aces last year in the semifinals of the Vienna Class 2A regional, saved its best for last.
Ethan Partridge, a 6-5 senior who finished game-high with 14 points, hit two straight 3-balls to give Eldorado the lead, and for good, at 49-48. Mount Carmel turned the ball over, and after Kale Oglesby made 1-of-2 at the foul line to account for the final score, the Aces had another chance.
Partridge “shot the ball better than we had seen him,” Buss said. Jacob Traxler added 12 for Eldorado, which was coming off a victory over fellow Black Diamond Conference opponent Carmi (48-32) on Friday night.
A long downcourt pass by Doan was tipped by Marcotte, and eventually deflected out of bounds by Eldorado. So, at :02, the Aces still had time to work a tip play from the baseline, but the Eagles knocked it away as time expired.
Mount Carmel, now with three straight losses after opening on a 12-game winning streak, was led by Marcotte’s 12 points. Austin Rager had 11.
The win would appear to put Eldorado in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 coaches seed in the sub-sectional complex when voting begins later this month. The IHSA has assigned Eldorado and Flora to host regionals in the sub-sectional, where 10 teams are entered, including the hosts, the Aces, Harrisburg, Carmi, Edwards County, Hamilton County, West Frankfort, Fairfield and Johnston City.
Eldorado won the junior varsity contest, 34-33.
ACES ASIDES… Justin Carpenter hit a free throw early in the game for his 1,000th career point. The game was stopped at that point for a brief ceremony, and he was awarded the game ball.... The Aces play at Boonville (2-8) Friday in a return to Big 8 Conference play. They are 3-0 in league play, and have never won more than that in their 14-year history in the league.