DU QUOIN, Ill. — Mt. Carmel got the push it wanted at the same time that Carterville was running out of options.
The result? A fourth-quarter turnaround and a 65-56 Golden Aces vicctory in the IHSA Class 2A sectional semifinal Tuesday here.
The Aces trailed, 49-47, as the fourth quarter began. But Carterville’s ongoing foul difficulty finally caught up with the Lions as leading scorer Will Galik and 1,000-career point senior Michael Aschmann both fouled out.
With an opening they needed, the Aces outscored Carterville (24-7) 18-7 in the final frame to advance to the championship game against Nashville, which defeated Harrisburg Wednesday (see story below).
Game time Friday will be at 7 p.m., preceded by the 3-point shootout competition at 5:30 p.m.
“A great win for us,” said Aces coach Tyler Buss. “Once we got slowed down and took care of the ball we knew we’d be fine offensively. But I was so proud of our defensive effort in the second half.”
The Aces, plagued by turnovers, trailed 36-29 at halftime, but battled back to within two by the end of the third frame.
Mt. Carmel (22-8) scored the final two points of the third frame to begin an eight-point run and take the lead for good.
C.J. Diel, scoreless and struggling with ball handling in the first half, roared to life in the second half with all of his 10 points after intermission.
“That was reminiscent of his sophomore year,” chided Buss about Diel’s first-half output. “He did a nice job in the second half, and was grabbing rebounds at their highest point.”
Levi Laws finished with 22 points, but his ability to split Carterville’s topside zone defenders was a key to the second-half as well.
“You saw how quick he can be when he splits those traps,” Buss said. “He’s pretty special about finishing or putting the ball in the basket.”
Reece Metcalf added 18 for the Aces, who have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen level for the first time since 2008 and only the seventh time in program history, encompassing 102 years.
The final game will be rematch of last year’s sectional semifinal, won by Nashville in overtime.
The winner Friday will advance to Tuedday’s super-sectional game at SIU Arena in Carbondale.
Carterville was led by Aschmann’s 17 points. Matt Galik added 15 and Will Galik 14.