PINCKNEYVILLE, ILL. – Mount Carmel basketball coach Tyler Buss admits he didn’t like what he was seeing in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Alton Marquette.
“I didn’t like our body language. It looked like it was going to go south in a hurry,” said Buss, with his team trailing the Explorers, 24-15, with 4:22 left in the period, their largest deficit of the game.
Then, “they did a good job of regrouping, got some stops, got out in transition a little bit, and got some mojo back.”
Indeed, they did.
Mount Carmel went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 24-24. From there, the Aces forced overtime, before hanging on for a 34-32 win in a battle of Class 2A Top Ten teams at the Panther Basketball Showcase here.
“If you would have told me that we would get only 34 points, I would have said it was a pretty tough night and a pretty tough loss for us,” Buss said.
Instead, it was a loss for fifth-ranked Marquette (20-3), snapping an 11-game winning streak in the process. The Explorers still had one last chance to at least extend the contest into a second overtime, but failed to get a shot off before the horn sounded.
Justin Carpenter’s offensive rebound basket after a missed free throw was all 10th-ranked
Mount Carmel (19-3) needed for its’ seventh-straight win. Carpenter also blocked a potential game-winning shot on the baseline at the close of regulation to send the game into a fifth period tied at 27-all.
“He is relentless,” said Buss of Carpenter, named the game’s MVP. “He just keeps coming at you, and it seems like when we need one, he makes a big play.”
Carpenter finished with 11 points, second to fellow 6-foot-8 inside threat Jackson
Marcotte’s 14 points.
Even though the Aces dominated in the paint (outscoring Marquette 24-14) and second-chance points (10-2), the Explorers’ control of the pace of the game made it tough on the winners all night long.
“It was tough to get the ball inside tonight,” Buss said. “They did a good job of taking that away.” And, on defense, “they are a tough team to defend because they are always moving and always screening.”
Mount Carmel outshot and outrebounded Marquette, which was coming off a 67-26 win over East Alton-Wood River on Friday night. But the Aces biggest struggle came at the foul line, where they were only 7-of-14 on the night.
If these two teams meet again this season, it would be at the IHSA Class 2A Super Sectional at SIU Arena in Carbondale in March. Even this game, in the marquee matchup at the end of a seven-game lineup in Pinckneyville, had a special feeling to it.
“That game right there was as post-season as it gets,” Buss said. “We’re not good enough to win a Sectional or Super Sectional yet. Our kids know what. We’re constantly preaching that we’ve got to get better. But I think we’ve got a crew that’s ready to do that over the next few weeks.”
Mount Carmel has five games remaining in the regular season. Tuesday, the Aces host Lawrenceville (8-9) before playing at Olney (7-12) on Wednesday in a game rescheduled from earlier in the season.