CARMI – Mount Carmel’s basketball team sent a strong message to the rest of the field Monday night at the Carmi-White County Invitational.
And it had nothing to do with offense.
Instead, the Golden Aces put on a defensive show that simply stifled Fairfield (9-7), limiting the Mules to a first-half shooting percentage in the teens and a total of only 10 points. Mount Carmel (14-3), the three-time defending champions of this round-robin event, rolled on to a 59-37 victory.
The clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter after Mount Carmel had built a 31-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
“That was just what the doctor ordered defensively,” said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss. “We challenged our guys. We had what we thought was a good plan, but it’s just about playing hard, and knowing certain tendencies. Everything seems better when the ball doesn’t go in the hole for the other team. They had some decent looks that just didn’t go in.”
Fairfield struggled all night inside against the much taller Aces, actually shooting better from beyond the arc line (6-of-15 from 3-point range for 40 percent), than inside (6-of-28 for 21 percent).
Mount Carmel, ranked eighth in the latest AP Class 2A poll, dominated just as clearly on the glass, enjoying a rebounding edge of 36-16. Buss said that allowed his Aces to get out and run.
“We told them we really wanted to run,” Buss said. “We wanted to get stops and get out in transition. That helped us get those rebounds because we knew we were going to run on the other end of it.”
Justin Carpenter led the winners with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Austin Rager finished with 13 points, and Jackson Marcotte 11.
On Rager’s play, Buss said: “We are a much better team when he is getting in double figures and attacking and getting to the basket.”
Fairfield, which beat Eldorado in December, has now lost five of its last six games, after an 8-2 start. The Mules were led by Jamon Vaughn off the bench with seven points.
The Aces play Harrisburg (6-8) Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs lost to Mount Vernon, Indiana 63-59 in the other game on Monday.
ACES ASIDES: Mount Carmel has been paired with ninth-ranked Alton Marquette (15-2) in the Panther Showcase at Pinckneyville on January 28 at 7 p.m. The following week, February 4 (at 1 p.m.), Mount Carmel will face Nashville at the Rich Herrin Shootout at Benton.