PEORIA, Ill. --- Everything ran like clockwork on Thursday for the state-bound Mount Carmel boys’ basketball team.

After a 7:30 a.m. sendoff from the Hilltop, the yellow District 348 school bus motored its way to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, where coach Tyler Buss’ alma mater threw open the doors to Lantz Gum for a mid-morning workout.

The entourage arrived in Peoria in time for a photography session followed by 30 minutes of court time on the Carver Arena floor, where the Golden Aces will return Friday for the Class 2A semifinal game against Kankakee Bishop McNamara.

A pre-tournament banquet wrapped up the festivities on the eve of Mount Carmel’s first state tournament appearance since 1944.

The schedule was arranged in advance by Buss, of course.

Last September.

Say what?

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CARBONDALE, Ill. – Mount Carmel is headed to the IHSA state basketball tournament.

Let those words sink in a little bit.

Because they haven’t been written for publication in 73 years.

The Golden Aces played perhaps their grandest game of the season Tuesday on the grandest stage of the year to date, overwhelming Alton Marquette, 61-40, in the Class 2A Super Sectional game at SIU Arena in Carbondale.

It is the first trip to the state finals since 1944, when an upstart 13-12 Mount Carmel team joined 15 others for the single-class tournament at Huff Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign. The Aces, 28-4 on the season, will face Kankakee Bishop McNamara (24-7) in the semifinals on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Carver Arena in Peoria.

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WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. – Mount Carmel keeps coming up with new ways to win post-season basketball games. If the Golden Aces can do that one more time, they’ll have something really new to talk about – a state-tournament experience.

The Aces have repeatedly overcome teams who minimize the impact of one of their two 6-foot-8 inside towers. Friday night, in the championship game of the IHSA Class 2A Sectional tournament, Robinson managed to hold both Justin Carpenter and Jackson Marcotte down in the first half. At intermission, Carpenter was scoreless, and Marcotte, who had 53 points in his previous two games, was held to two points. Yet, the Aces led at the break, 22-20, thanks to a buzzer-beating three-point runner by Brayden Stipp after Robinson had surged ahead on a seven-point run.

In the second half, Marcotte returned to form. He finished with 16 points, despite playing much of the second half with four fouls. Carpenter, meanwhile, staked his claim to the lane without scoring a lot of points. He only had three points on the night, but pulled down more rebounds (11) than anyone else on the floor.

Even after struggling most of the night at the foul line, it is there where Mount Carmel (27-4) clinched its’ first sectional title since 2007. The Aces scored their last six points at the stripe, after the Maroons had crept to within four points late.

The 54-49 win vaults Mount Carmel into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1929, when a Cliff Garrett-coached team, two years removed from a state championship, returned to Huff Gym at the University of Illinois in Champaign for the single-class quarterfinals. The Aces will face Alton Marquette on Tuesday in the Super Sectional game at SIU Arena in Carbondale, with a tipoff time of 7:30 p.m.

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WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. – It was déjà vu, all over again.

For the second time this season, there was Teutopolis with a frantic but failed last-second rush to score points after Mount Carmel had taken a two-point lead with mere seconds remaining.

The first time was in November at the Capital Classic in Lawrenceville. When it happened again on Wednesday in the IHSA Class 2A Sectional semi-finals here, the 66-64 loss meant the end of a 28-4 season for fourth-ranked Teutopolis.

For Mount Carmel (26-4), it marked the first time a Golden Aces team had ever beaten T-town in the post-season, in either boys or girls play.

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FLORA, Ill. – Holding a tenuous 35-30 lead over Edwards County at halftime, Mount Carmel basketball coach Tyler Buss sought to ease the collective anxiety of his Golden Aces.

“We were a little down at halftime,” said Buss. “We had to remind them that they don’t just hand (regional championships) out. You’ve got to go earn them.”

The Aces took those words to heart. They turned the IHSA Class 2A regional title game Friday night into a rout by outscoring the Lions 26-7 in the third quarter, and coasted in from there to a 78-51 win, their second straight regional crown and fourth in the last five years.

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