INA, ILL – The Mount Carmel Middle School Junior Lady Aces will play for third place in the SIJHSAA Class L state tournament following a 44-30 loss to Herrin in the semifinals on Tuesday.
MCMS will play Centralia at 9:30 a.m. at Waugh Gymnasium on the campus of Rend Lake College. Centralia lost to Massac County, 50-31, in the other semifinal.
Herrin proved to be too much for Mount Carmel inside down the stretch, as center Layla Wade led the Lady Tigers with 20 points. On the occasions she didn’t get to the basket but the foul line instead, she proved quite adept there as well, hitting five of eight free throws.
After the Tiger lead reached double figures in the third quarter, Mount Carmel put on a full-court press, and stayed with it for the remainder of the game. After an initial thrust when the Lady Aces got as close as five points, Herrin was able to stabilize their offense and thwart the pressure.
At one point, Taylor Singer had three consecutive blocked shots on one Herrin possession, which led to a Maya Smith basket that got the large Mount Carmel contingent revved up.
“I am super proud of our girls,” said MCMS coach Vernon Higginson. “They worked their tail off. We did not play a good game, probably in any aspect. We couldn’t buy a shot, didn’t have the help defense we had talked about, and on and on. But they worked (with the press) until they were exhausted.”
Getting to play in the third-place game should be something to look forward to, according to Higginson.
“There are a lot of tears in there right now,” he said. “Like I told the girls, every year there are only four teams in the state that get to play on the last day. They’re one of those four.”
Higginson was impressed with what he saw from Herrin.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen them look. I knew that (Wade) was a load inside. She’s a very good player, who finished strong.”
Smith led Mount Carmel (21-1) with 16 points. Rylie Webb added nine points, Allie McPherson three and Singer two.
Herrin, which also had a double-digit performance from Meghyn Clark (10 points), led 8-5 at the end of the first quarter, 15-13 at halftime, then 31-22 after pulling away in the third quarter.