WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. – It was déjà vu, all over again.
For the second time this season, there was Teutopolis with a frantic but failed last-second rush to score points after Mount Carmel had taken a two-point lead with mere seconds remaining.
The first time was in November at the Capital Classic in Lawrenceville. When it happened again on Wednesday in the IHSA Class 2A Sectional semi-finals here, the 66-64 loss meant the end of a 28-4 season for fourth-ranked Teutopolis.
For Mount Carmel (26-4), it marked the first time a Golden Aces team had ever beaten T-town in the post-season, in either boys or girls play.
Justin Carpenter dove down the lane and hit a layup to give the ninth-ranked Aces the lead with 11.5 seconds remaining. The eventual game–winner ended a sudden, dramatic eight-point T-town turnaround which completely wiped out, in less than two minutes time, the largest lead Mount Carmel had in the game.
In the final seconds, the Wooden Shoes sent everyone crashing towards the basket. Mitch Hardiek missed from the lane, followed by two more tip tries as the born sounded.
“A never-doubter” chuckled a tired Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss sarcastically after the game. “What a great high school basketball game. Those were two awesome teams going right at it. I can’t say enough about or guys. They never doubted it. They just kept doing the things they needed to do.”
In November, the Shoes tried to win the game with a 3-point field goal. Buss figured they would go for the tie and overtime this time – for all the wrong reasons.
“As easy as they were able to get to the basket in the second half, I knew they would try to get in there and create some contact, and maybe get a foul,” he said. “We didn’t guard it that great. (Hardiek) got past us way too easy. The final eight seconds seemed to take forever. But give us credit for making a stop and getting the rebound.”
Based on instant reaction by Aces fans on social media, the victory seemed nothing short of glorious. But for those in attendance, it was more relief than anything else. The matchup had been one year in the making, following Mount Carmel’s loss to the Shoes at this same tourney level in 2016.
A win in March over a storied program like Teutopolis “means the world,” according to Buss. “But it basically means we’re continuing to play. Confidence is not an issue with this group.”
T-town followed the same defensive strategy course employed by other Mount Carmel post-season opponents: put the clamps on 6-foot-8 senior Justin Carpenter. It worked, as the Southeast Missouri State-signee was held to nine points. But, the Aces answer was similar, too: a dominant Jackson Marcotte inside. The 6-8 junior led all scorers with 28 points to go with 15 rebounds.
“They had no answer for Marcotte all night,” Buss said.
Arguably the brightest spot for the Aces may have been the play of guard Brayden Stipp, who collected a season-high 19 points. “He is no-longer a role player. He is a play maker and a scorer,” said Buss of the 6-foot junior who has developed a recent habit of coming up big in the third quarter. “He never gets tired.”
T-town wound up with 17 more field goal attempts, but hit only 21 of their 60 (35 percent) shots compared to 22-of-43 accuracy (51 percent) for the Aces. But, the winners got themselves to the foul line far more, hitting 21-of-27 on the night (78 percent) compared to 13-of-16 (81 percent) for the Shoes.
Lane Belleville, one of five senior starters for coach Jason Hanson, led Teutopolis with 15 points. Brant Bueker finished with 13.
Mount Carmel meets Robinson (20-10) on Friday night in the championship game. The Aces defeated the Maroons, 56-42, there in early December. The winner earns a slot in the Super Sectional on Tuesday, March 7 at SIU Arena in Carbondale.
ACES ASIDES: Mount Carmel’s 26th win is the most since the 1927-28 season, when a Cliff Garrett-coached team followed up a state championship season with a 30-5 record. That is a span of 89 years in case you’re math-challenged… The Aces won despite foul trouble which limited Austin Rager’s effectiveness, and no 3-point field goal by usual sharpshooter Bret Doan, who had four points on the night… Even the great Tyra Buss and her Lady Aces teams could not beat Teutopolis. The 2-time Illinois Ms. Basketball, now a repeat all-Big Ten Conference selection as a junior at Indiana University, was 0-4 in sectional play against the Lady Shoes… All three teams which are blocking Mount Carmel’s path to the IHSA Final Four at Carver Arena in Peoria – Robinson on Friday, and either Alton Marquette or Nashville (playing for the sectional crown in Nashville) on Tuesday in the Super Sectional – have lost to the Aces this season.