WISCONSIN DELLS, Wisc. - The Golden Aces boys basketball team was busy packing this morning before a long trip home from their final summer tournament in Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.
Hope they left room for a six-foot high trophy.
The Aces capped off the summer season by winning the championship of the Tommy Bartlett Firecracker Shootout, a 20-team tourney held over the weekend at this vacation hotspot.
After defeating two Wisconsin teams in pool play, the Aces edged past Minnesota team Plainview-Elgin-Millville 43-41 in sudden death overtime on Sunday.
The teams were tied after regulation, then neither scored in a two-minute overtime, forcing the sudden death OT. P-E-M got the ball first but the Bulldogs failed to score. Mt. Carmel junior-to-be Levi Laws, after the rebound, pushed the ball in transition ahead to Reece Metcalf who hit a layup to give the Aces the win.
The Bulldogs, 21-9 last year, were Minnesota Class 2A state champions (in a four-class system) two years ago.
Mt. Carmel’s final summer record was 25-10. “It was a huge summer,” said Golden Aces coach Tyler Buss. “I was happy with how many games we won, but I was more happy with the improvement some of these guys made personally.”
Friday on their way north, the Aces stopped off at Kankakee to scrimmage the Kays, coached by former MCHS coach Ronnie Wilcox - the same Kays Mt. Carmel defeated 60-59 on Feb. 9 at the Hilltop in their first-ever meeting.
“We played really well,” said Buss of the Aces, who hit a shot with four seconds left to go up by one point, only to lose on a shot at the buzzer.
The Aces played over the weekend without C.J. Diel, but still got solid inside play from Austin Thompson, Gabe Margelin and Riley Raber.
Metcalf, last year’s leading scorer, “has been doing a good job of getting to the post and scoring both inside and outside.”
Buss was most pleased with the play of his bench, and how depth has become a plus for his club. “There have been some guys who were eighth, ninth or 10th on our depth chart that have really stepped up to the point where I am confident to put them in the game,” he noted of the play of last year’s JV leaders like juniors-to-be Cole Jamison, Deric Wright and Sam Deisher who will provide relief and perhaps a challenge to the four returning starters off last year’s 14-15 team which advanced to the finals of the West Frankfort Class 2A sectional, losing to Nashville in overtime.
Buss is hopeful that last season’s late success will whet the Aces appetite for the year ahead. “For our guys now, winning the regional won’t be good enough. They’re ready to take the next step and make a deep run (in the state tournament). We definitely have the talent to do it.
“Now it’s a matter of making sure we have a basketball in our hands between now and November.”