ROBINSON, ILL. – Coming off their first-ever win over Jasper in an uber-hyped Big 8 Conference game three days prior, the undefeated Mount Carmel boys basketball team had itself set up for a classic “trap” game on Tuesday at Robinson.
The game turned out to be anything but that for the Golden Aces.
Mount Carmel (7-0) showed no signs of overconfidence. Instead, the Aces looked smooth as silk in building a 25-point lead by halftime, then costing in from there for a 56-42 non-conference win.
“Everything looks good when the ball goes in the hole,” said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Bus of a red hot first half of shooting which helped build a 39-14 advantage for the visitors by intermission. What the coach was most impressed with, however, took place on the defensive end.
“(Shooting) comes and goes in stretches. I thought our defense, especially in that first half, was as good as we’ve played in my six years here. Every piece of the defense was all connected.”
Highly-regarded Robinson (4-2), with four starters back from last year, appeared to be one team capable of matching Mount Carmel’s size inside. But the tandem of 6-foot-7 Dylan Dirks and 6-5 Walker Sandschafer, and the Maroon offense in general, could not get untracked until midway through the third quarter. They cut the deficit to 16 points, but came no closer until reserves finished out the game.
“We probably got a little hesitant in the second half,” Buss said. “We only scored 17 points in the second half, but you’ve got to find that balance of taking good shots and working the ball around. Robinson is a heck of a team. They’re going to win a lot of games this year, and we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
Austin Rager, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, was back at full strength, and it showed. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half, and ended up sharing team-high honors with 6-foot-8 junior Jackson Marcotte.
Sandfschafer finished with 18 points to lead all scorers, but had only four points at halftime. So did Dirks, who wound up with eight.
Mount Carmel finished just shy of recording its’ third straight wire-to-wire win. A Dirks basket gave Robinson a 4-3 lead, but it lasted mere seconds before the Aces scored four straight to take a 7-4 lead.
This is one of the busiest non-tournament weeks of the season for Buss’ team. The Aces go to Vincennes Lincoln (0-3) for a Big 8 game on Friday, before returning to the Hilltop Saturday for a non-conference game against Flora (1-4), which lost to a tall Edwards County team on Tuesday, 53-38.