LAWRENCEVILLE, Ill. — All Mt. Carmel really wanted out of the Basketball Capital Classic was a chance to get some game-time in before Saturday’s Big 8 Conference opener at Jasper. That’s why the Golden Aces rejoined the tourney after a 12-year absence.
They got much more than that.
Not only did the Aces refine their play over the course of four games in two days, they found out just how good they can be. All this while winning the tourney championship for the first time in school history with a 61-30 overhwhelming of Olney.
“That shows when all things are clicking, we can be pretty special,” said Aces coach Tyler Buss. “We did some things I haven’t even seen us do. The sky is the limit for this group.”
Mt. Carmel (3-1), after sputtering in a turnover plagued opening-game loss to Marshall (58-55) on Friday, looked impressive in routing legendary Pinckneyville, 50-23, to finish the first day. Saturday morning, after falling behind host Lawrenceville, 30-18, in the third quarter, the Aces finally shook the cobwebs out and rallied to a 54-44 victory. Tied with Pinckneyville at 2-1 in pool round play, Mt. Carmel advanced to the finals by virtue of head-to-head play.
The Aces then proceeded to make a mockery of the finals in a wire-to-wire rout of an Olney team which returned virtually everyone from last year’s 16-14 club.
“It all started with defense,” Buss said. “We held them to only five points in the first quarter and got our offense going.”
Mt. Carmel turned a 14-5 first-quarter lead into a 32-18 advantage at halftime. Then, they found yet another gear and switched to it in the third frame, outscoring the Tigers, 23-8 to put the game utterly out of reach. The clock ran continuously once the Aces lead reached 30 points seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Aces shot 60 percent on 25-of-42 from the field, while holding Olney to 25 percent (10-of-40). On top of that, the Aces dominated the boards, winning the rebound battle, 35-13.
Reece Metcalf, who was named the tournament MVP, finished with a double-double (16 points and 13 rebounds). C.J. Diel, who joined Levi Laws with other spots on the all-tourney team, led all scorers with 21 points.
Tate Nohren led Olney (3-1), which paraded through the other pool play site at Red Hill unbeaten (including a 43-40 win over nine-time tourney champion Teutopolis), with 13 points.
Mt. Carmel will face Olney one more time, on Dec. 21 in a regular-season game at the Hilltop. But, that will be it, because Olney has dropped out of the January Carmi Invitational. The two will not meet in the post-season since Olney is once again a Class 3A team, one division higher than Mt. Carmel.
The Aces open the home season Tuesday against Red Hill. The junior varsity game begins at 6:15 p.m. Between games, State Farm Insurance agents Dan Schonert and Kenny Saxe will present MCHS officials with a check for $100,000 for finishing in the top five in the recent Celebrate My Drive promotion.