OAKLAND CITY, Ind. -- Early on this season, you've seen some signs of youth from Mount Carmel's boys basketball. They've inched toward some games and in some, they've fallen short. But recently, you can just tell the team's starting to mature.
That continued in the Toyota Classic, which they capped with a 72-56 victory over North Posey on Saturday night at Wood Memorial High School.
Early on it just felt like it was a matter of time until the game turned into a blowout. The Vikings were denying Austin Rager the ball, but Bret Doan and the remainder of the Aces core picked up the slack in the first quarter. Doan scored eight of his 11 points in the first quarter, polevaulting the Aces to a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Their defense, led by Beau Stipp, was absolutely disruptive for the first 12 minutes. The Aces kept North Posey out of any type of rhythm and streaked toward a 29-11 lead. Much to the dislike of Aces coach Tyler Buss, the Aces started to get in foul trouble and the Vikings inched closer. Though they committed just six fouls in the first half, two were committed each by the trio of Rager, Kaleb Applebey and Luke Gould. The Vikings narrowed it to a 31-21 lead at halftime courtesy of a buzzer-beater layup off a steal.
Mount Carmel showed flashes of nearly putting away North Posey, but they managed to hang in there due to some foul trouble. With Rager and Applebey sidelined with three fouls, North Posey got within six-points early in the fourth quarter, but it would be all Mount Carmel from then on.
"Guys played well, again, executed our gameplan for the most part," coach Buss said. "I'd say three, three and a half quarters we did a really good job. We got in some foul trouble there that put us in a tough spot.
With their starters back on the floor, it just felt like the Aces found their rhythm again. The defense stepped up, the offense improved, and they showed a great deal of maturity in putting away North Posey -- something they've struggled to do against opponents in the past.
The trio of Stipp, Rager and Applebey combined for 12 straight Mount Carmel points and the lead quickly inflated up to a 21-point lead in favor of the Aces with under two and a half minutes to go.
"Absolutely," coach Buss spoke of his group's maturity showed in the late run. "That's something that I'm not sure two or three weeks ago if we have that run in us. Again, it's a group that's getting some experience. Not only playing, but playing together. They know where each other are, want the ball, things like that. I think just the cohesiveness of playing together for the games so far has helped."
Four Aces scored in double-digits in the victory -- Stipp with 19 points, Rager with 18 points (10 of which coming in the fourth), Applebey with 13 points and 11 points from Doan. Luke Gould chipped in nine points, all from arc for the Aces.
They'll look to carry their current momentum into the new year after a brief absence for Christmas break -- though it won't be a friendly stretch to start January.
The Aces begin the month with five games in a 10 day stretch, which might be challenging for this group. That stretch begins against Evansville Central on Jan. 2 starting at 5:30 p.m.
"We have to continue to get better," coach Buss spoke of his group. "I still think this group has a really, really high ceiling that we have to work to get to."