MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- There was just a second remaining in the second quarter, Mount Carmel was trailing 29-25 with Eldorado seemingly hitting every perimeter shot they took. They launched another one, which was airballed, but the board found it's way into the hands of an Eagles player. He put the ball back up for a layup after the game clock had expired, but the officials counted it anyway.
The Hilltop turned into a ruckus on a play that was a major shot to the Aces chances in the game, giving Eldorado all the momentum entering the second half. Some teams may have been buried after a demoralizing sequence such as that, but Mount Carmel responded in a colossal way.
The Aces allowed just four points in the third quarter, ending the quarter on a sensational 21-0 run to propel them to a 63-50 victory over another good opponent.
Early in the game Mount Carmel struggled defending the arc and the Eagles capitalized, nailing three after three to give Eldorado a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Aces senior Austin Rager did his best to keep the Aces in it in the first quarter, scoring seven of their 10 points. Outside of Rager, Mount Carmel was missing some open shots and it appeared as if they had some tired legs from the quick turnaround.
Rager and the Aces continued to fight, but the Eagles just kept answering with a three each time the Aces cut the lead. Eldorado's Joe Mayberry was impressive in the first half, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the half, largely on threes. The Aces would reduce the lead to just three a couple times before the controversy at the end of the second quarter, leading to a 31-25 in favor of the Eagles.
Aces coach Tyler Buss must have given a great halftime speech, because they came out of the break firing on all cylinders. Their defense was closing out on shots, they were grabbing boards, they made open shots, it was all just falling Mount Carmel's way.
Although he came slow out of the gate, Ace Bret Doan came firing in the third quarter, nailing three three-pointers in the blistering stretch. Joining Doan in the fiery quarter, guard Beau Stipp, who was clicking on all cylinders as a ball handler by setting up some nice opportunities for Doan, while also scoring nine points of his own in the quarter and doing a nice job of finishing through contact.
"Bret didn't let a couple missed shots there early derail him," coach Buss spoke of Doan. He did a good job of getting to the basket and that wasn't even working for him. He stuck with it and once he sees the first one go in, you get your sheet out and start running all the Bret Doan plays. He did a good job of knocking down shots for us in that run."
Stretching into the fourth quarter the run totaled to 27-2 for the Aces, vastly altering what was a 35-29 in favor of the Eagles, into a 56-37 lead for Mount Carmel.
Tempers started to flare on a play where Rager was met in the air and two Eagles collided with Rager, as the two teams got into it after the play. After the dust settled double technicals were handed out to Mount Carmel's Kaleb Applebey and Eldorado's Mayberry -- the sequence resulted in a pair of free throws for Mount Carmel. The two sides and officials did a good job of breaking it up before it had a chance of escalating into something worse.
With the lead reaching as high as 21, the game was all but over and the Aces had arguably their most impressive win of the season over a Eldorado team who sits at 13-3, the Eagles caused some serious fits for the Aces in the first half.
Three Aces registered double digits scoring in the contest, Doan, with a game-high 22 points, Rager, who scored 16 points, and Stipp with 14 points. When the sharpshooting Doan plays well, this Mount Carmel team is difficult to beat -- and Doan is averaging 20.5 points per game over his last two games.
Give credit to coach Buss for his halftime adjustments though. He switched Luke Gould onto Mayberry, who had a phenomenal shooting first half. Gould held the Eagles senior to just two points in the second half.
"We had to do a better job on Mayberry and I thought Luke Gould did a great job of guarding him in the second half," coach Buss spoke of his senior guard. "Really frustrated him and did a great job."
Mount Carmel has now won two of their first three games in 2019 and improve to 6-9 on the season -- quite a turnaround from a group that started the season 0-6.
"That's a heck of a weekend for the Aces," coach Buss said. "Not the start we wanted, I don't know if were still resting a bit from the big Friday night win, but what a job by our guys in the second half. Everything feels better when the ball goes in the hole, but it was all about our defense. We held them to four points in that third quarter, that has to be us, we have to hang our hats on defense night in and night out."
With an ever growing confidence on display, the Aces have a familiar opponent up next, Princeton. The Tigers, victors of the Toyota Classic in December, defeated Mount Carmel 68-57 in their first meeting of the season. They sit at 9-2 on the season and will likely be more prepared for Mount Carmel this time around, not in a tournament setting. It'll be an interesting test for a clicking Aces team.
"We played them in the Toyota and threw a lot of stuff at them that they maybe weren't quite ready for," coach Buss spoke of the Tigers. "They'll be ready, they'll have a great plan and obviously coach Haywood is one of the best coaches in the area. We'll have our hands full, but we're playing better basketball now, we have some confidence and we'll go over there and give ourselves a fighter chance."
The game will be at Princeton on Tuesday, Jan. 8 starting with the JV at 6 p.m. The Aces next home game will come on Jan. 22 against Gibson Southern starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilltop.
MC - 10 15 23 15 -- 63
E - 16 15 4 15 -- 50
Aces scoring: Doan 6 6 22, Rager 6 4 16, Stipp 4 6 14, Applebey 2 2 7, Gould 1 0 3