Regardless of how the Golden Aces basketball team fares Friday in the IHSA Class 2A sectional championship game in Du Quoin, they are already one of the most successful boys teams in school history.
If they defeat Nashville in the finals, then they will really be up there.
Mt. Carmel (22-8) has reached the Sweet Sixteen level of the state tournament series, one of seven teams in the 102-year history of Aces basketball to make it this far.
Interestingly, there are now already three teams this century to hit the mark, the 2013-14 edition joining the squads of 2006-07 and 2007-08, the only two to accomplish it in back-to-back years.
In 2006-07 Illinois was still utilizing a two-class system in basketball, with the Sweet Sixteen teams having to advance to the super-sectional.
The following year, 2007-08, the current four-class system was introduced, with teams reaching the sectional championship making up the Sweet Sixteen.
Also making the final field of 16 were the 1935 and 1944 teams, in years when 16 teams went to Huff Gymnasium in Champaign, the forerunner to Assembly Hall (now State Farm Arena).
Two teams have reached the Elite Eight level, the state championship season of 1927 when they obviously went past that level, and two years later in 1929.
So, a Mt. Carmel win over Nashville would thus tie Tyler Buss’ team for second on the all-time Hilltop list, and would be a feat unmatched in 85 years.
In 1921, the IHSA tournament was conducted quite differently, with 21 teams advancing to the state tournament. The Aces lost what would now be known as a play-in game for a Sweet Sixteen spot.