PEORIA, Ill. --- Southern Illinois has become all too familiar with how punishing Mount Carmel’s twin towers can be. Now, the entire state knows.
Jackson Marcotte and Justin Carpenter both recorded double-doubles on Friday night, leading Mount Carmel to a 67-55 victory over Kankakee Bishop McNamara in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 2A state tournament at Carver Arena in Peoria.
The win sent the ninth-rated Aces into the championship game on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. against the only other AP Top 10 team to play in Peoria, Chicago Orr (22-5), who eliminated Monticello, 62-44.
“They complement each other,” said coach Tyler Buss of the 6-foot-8 tandem of Marcotte and Carpenter. “Jackson does a great job inside, and Justin is very underrated in terms of his passing. If they’re both in the game, we’ve got a great chance to get rebounds.
Marcotte scored 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Carpenter added 15 points and 14 boards as the Golden Aces (29-4) recorded their first win at a state tournament since 1927, when they won the single-class state title. It is their first trip to the tourney since 1944.
As good as the bigs were, it was sophomore forward Austin Rager who helped put the final nail in the coffin for McNamara (24-8). He scored two baskets as part of a nine-put surge that took the Aces lead from five points to 14 midway through the fourth quarter. Rager finished with 11 points.
Bret Doan and Brayden Stipp each finished with seven points, while Blake Golden had another strong performance off the bench, ending with six.
It was a frustrating night for the Fighting Irish, at the state finals for the first time since 2000. They shot just 34 percent from the floor on 23-of-68, and fared worse from the arc line, hitting just 2-of-13 for 15 percent.
Guard Dylan Post led the Kankakee parochial school with 15 points. Tevin Watson added 14.
ACES ASIDES… Aces won the rebounding battle, 41-31, but McNamara was impressive at its own end, collecting 15 of its 31 rebounds on the offensive end… As bad as Mount Carmel’s free throw shooting seemed to be (just 61 percent on 16-of-26), the Fighting Irish fared worse, going 7-of-13 for 58 percent... There will be plenty of good seats available for Aces fans making the trip to Peoria for Saturday’s title tilt. You can request tickets in the Mount Carmel section as long as they are available.