MOUNT CARMEL, Ill., -- With two starters returning from injury, Mount Carmel figured to get a tougher game from Big 8 Conference opponent Mount Vernon, Ind. than they did in December, when the Lady Aces won, 47-15, at the Toyota Teamwork Classic.
They did. But when the scoreboard read 12-1 Mount Vernon midway into the first quarter, Lady Aces faithful at the Hilltop were left shaking their heads. That much tougher?
It was at that point, though, that Mount Carmel (11-8, 2-3 in Big 8) finally got untracked. The Lady Aces had made up the entire deficit by halftime, then eased away in the second half for a 43-34 victory.
What made the difference? “Whenever coach (Tim Willis) got in our head,” said junior guard Haley Maguire. “We wanted this one. We knew (Hallie Fisher, one of the returnees) would be good. It just got in our heads.”
Mount Carmel outscored the Lady Wildcats 21-9 in the second quarter and led 28-27 at halftime. While both teams struggled mightily on offense in the second half, the hosts’ 15-7 advantage in the second half ensured as comfortable a win as a nine-point margin can ever be.
A key to the win was the return of Baylie Ray to form. She scored 13 points, second only to Kylie Terrell’s team-high 19. If they were rattled early, Ray said Willis would not let that feeling persist.
“He knew we were down, but he knew we could get back up. He was encouraging us and not really yelling at us,” Ray said.
As to the kinder, gentler approach he used with his team, Willis said: “I made a concerted effort not to get on them too much. We just kind of worked our way through it and see how they reacted. I thought they did a pretty good job.”
Fisher, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, finished game-high with 20 points. In the second half, with more confidence showing, the Lady Aces held her in check, with only six of those points coming after intermission.
Mount Vernon fell to 1-16 and 0-5 with the loss. The Lady Wildcats do not have players to have a junior varsity team, so only a varsity game was played.
There were only two three-point field goals collectively in the game. Ray hit one in the second quarter for the Lady Aces, with freshman guard Summer Sanders tacking one up for the Lady Wildcats in the first quarter.
Mount Carmel opens play in the Lady Eagle Mid-Winter Classic in Eldorado on Monday. The tourney features pool-round games during the week, with a final placement game on Saturday.