WASHINGTON -- The host Washington Hatchets scored the first basket of the game Friday night. Mount Carmel scored answered by scoring the next 16 points en route to an Aces' 65-45 Big 8 Conference victory over Washington in boys high school basketball action.
"There was no magic potion, no Rah, Rah speech, just play the way we need to play," said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss. "When we're at our best we're getting stops on the defensive end and we're playing fast and pushing the tempo on the offensive end.
"That first quarter was a perfect sign of that. We were getting to the basket because of the way we were running the floor and getting the ball out in transition and going. Hats off to our guy for playing with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor there in that first quarter."
Brayden Stipp got the Aces on the board with two free throws. It opened the floodgates as Jackson Marcotte scored after an assist from Bret Doan.
Marcotte then put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket to score, which was followed by Stipp doing the same to get to the rim and complete a 3-point play.
After a steal from Austin Rager and layup with 5:01, the Aces led 11-2
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resulted in a full-time out by Washington.
"You can't play up-tempo if you're taking the ball out a bunch," said Buss. "It all starts with the defense. This team, all year, our best games have been when we've played great defense. To do that you've got to communicate and you've got to be active. I think we got several knocked balls there with our hands and getting hands on balls leading to steals for breaks too. I'm very pleased with our play on both ends of the floor tonight."
Stipp followed the timeout with a 3 then Blake Golden caused a turnover and finished with a layup to finish off the 16-0 run and claim a 16-2 lead with 3:56 left in the first quarter.
During the game, Rager scored the 1,000th-point of his career. The junior finished with 23 points in the game and 14 rebounds.
"He's continued to get better throughout the year," said Buss. "He's always had the talent it's just sometimes been tucked back in there. He's really blossomed since Christmas. I've been super proud of Austin on both ends of the floor with the things he's able to do for us.
"He gives our offense another dimension when he can get to the basket with as much aggressiveness that he can and finish around the basket to get some of those tough buckets inside in double, physical games like this. He's playing really well for us right now and that will be pretty big for us coming forward."
The Aces went on to a 24-8 lead after the first quarter and up 33-19 at the half.
The Hatchets came out in the third quarter in a 2-3 zone. After Washington scored the first five points of the third, Stipp's back-to-back 3s and Rager's layup pushed Mount Carmel's advantage back to 41-24 with 4:09 to play in the quarter.
"They threw that zone at us and we turned it over a couple times because we were getting a little lazy with the ball and Brayden Stipp came down on back-to-back possessions and knocks down two big 3s to where it stretched the lead back out to where you felt a little more comfortable," explained Buss.
"We like to think we have all dimensions covered on offense. We can get to the basket. We can throw it into the post. We have great shooters from the perimeter. When we're clicking, it's like pick-your-poison for the defense."
Rager closed the third quarter scoring seven straight points as the Aces led 48-28 at the end of the quarter.
Then in the fourth, Mount Carmel hit four 3s to open the frame. The first three from Doan, who finished with nine points in the game.
The Aces are 18-11 and have won five of their last six games. Mount Carmel finishes 3-3 in the Big 8 Conference as they prepare for class 2A regional action Tuesday in Lawrenceville.
"We told them, 'you get one more guaranteed after this so it's time to make sure we're playing our best basketball," said Buss. "Attention to detail is super important in the postseason so let's make sure it's super important tonight. Let's make sure we're valuing the basketball. Let's make sure we're playing the way we need to play.' They did a really nice job there, especially early getting off to that nice lead."
Mount Carmel is the two-seed and will face the winner of Monday's game between Lawrenceville and Red Hill on Tuesday at 6 o'clock.
"This is why we coach," said Buss. "This is why these guys play the game, for these moments we're ready to go through over, hopefully, the next couple of weeks. Our guys know what it takes. A lot of these guys in that locker room know what you've got to do to win postseason basketball games.
"Now it's just about going out there and doing it. What we did last year and the first part of this year is not going to matter. Everyone is 0-0 now and you have to take each game as they go. Last year, this group did a great job of being laser-focus on each game as they came and that will be our focus this year as well."
The second game on Tuesday will be Harrisburg against Robinson. The two winners from Tuesday will play for a regional championship on Friday.
"I love where we're at," said Buss. "We've got to keep grinding and keep improving. We'll look at the film. I'm sure there will be something and we're always talking to our kids about how it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems. We played a pretty complete game of basketball tonight and that's what it will take moving forward."
Contact Register Sports Editor Paul Wilcoxen at (618) 263-1004, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @paulwilcoxen.