PRINCETON, IND. – Mt. Carmel never trailed in Tuesday night’s Big 8 Conference game at Princeton. But, they never led by much either.
The Golden Aces were in a dogfight most of the night against their closest rivals from Indiana, finally grabbing their largest lead of eight points seconds before the finish in a 55-50 win. The win improved Mount Carmel to 10-0 for what is believed to be only the second time in school history.
“Nothing was easy,” said Aces coach Tyler Buss after the game. For the first time this season, he took note of “bad habits starting to creep in” during practice. And it showed during the game.
“I didn’t think we played very tough or physical today,” Buss said. “Princeton was the aggressor tonight, and that just can’t happen. They kicked our butts for a lot of that game. But when we needed to, we went and got big rebounds. Anytime you go on the road in the Big 8 and get a win, you can’t be too unhappy.”
The Tigers (1-4), coached by ex-Mount Carmel star and coach Ryan Haywood, kept it close through the combination of a formidable 1-3-1 defense and inspired play from 6-foot-5 sophomore Zach Dove, who led all scorers with 22 points.
Princeton came within one point, 34-33, in the third quarter, but could not grab the lead. With the Tigers within 48-44 late, Bret Doan went inside to answer for Mount Carmel, hiking the lead to 50-44. And when Rylin Stough’s 3-point field goal (he had two of those in his 13-point night for the Tigers) brought the hosts within 51-47, the Aces’ Austin Rager calmly added two free throws with 14.7 seconds to put the game out of reach.
Jackson Marcotte led Mount Carmel with 17 points, but he was held scoreless in the first period, which the Aces won but only by a 6-5 margin. Justin Carpenter had 12 points, while Doan also finished in double figures with 10.
Buss was quick to laud the solid play of Dove. “He is going to be a load for them for a couple more years. They took advantage of some of our switches, and we were a little slow on our chances where we could have switched back.”
Mount Carmel was playing for the third time in five days, which Buss wasn’t buying into as an excuse. Where it may have hurt the most, however, was in practice preparation.
“It’s tough to get a tough, physical type of practice in. We play our top six or seven guys a lot of minutes, and you’ve got to balance resting legs with not losing that physical streak which got us to 10-0,” Buss said. “But we’re going to fix that in practice.”
Mount Carmel, now 3-0 in the Big 8 for the first time ever, is idle until Saturday, when they play at Olney (1-6). The Aces defeated the Tigers, 68-50, on Nov. 26 in the Capital Classic in Lawrenceville.
ACES ASIDES… Mt. Carmel is now one win away from tying the school record for most wins at the start of a season… The 1926-27 one-class state championship team began 11-0 before losing to Monroe City, Ind. In the second round of the Wabash Valley tournament in Terre Haute, Ind. They eventually finished 31-2… The 1982-83 Aces team coached by Fred Harris began the season 10-1, but they lost in the second game of the season to Robinson in the Newton Thanksgiving tournament before ripping off nine straight wins… Mount Carmel has never finished with a winning record in the Big 8. One more league win will ensure that, but it will have to wait until Jan. 13, when the Aces play at Boonville, Ind.