OAKLAND CITY, Ind. -- Mount Carmel girls basketball showed signs of life amidst their current seven-game losing streak in their most recent loss, in the Toyota Classic against Princeton. The game served as a precursor for a team who's eager to get back on track.
They did just that on Saturday in their final game of the Toyota Classic, handily defeating North Posey (1-13) 62-34 on Saturday afternoon for a successful end to 2018 and snapping their seven-game losing skid.
It was a highly contested game out of the gate, with Mount Carmel (9-8) boasting a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Aces started to impose their will in the second quarter, however. Their full-court press and traps forced numerous North Posey turnovers, disrupting just about every Lady Viking pass. Mount Carmel continued to turn their suffocating defense into offense in transition opportunities, highlighted by Maya Smith.
Smith, Mount Carmel's floor general, thrived in transition, scoring a game-high 17 points, including 12 in the dominant second quarter.
With Smith pushing the ball early and often off steals and the Lady Aces remaining active on the glass, Mount Carmel pushed their way to a 26-point second quarter, giving them a 41-25 lead at the half and nearly breaking the game wide open. A couple late North Posey three-pointers and Mount Carmel fouling a Lady Viking on a three all contributed to the margin remaining a little closer.
"We kind of knew that's what we needed to do to get a victory," Mount Carmel coach Tim Willis spoke of their defensive pressure. "We talked about it and what we needed to do. I thought we did a good job of staying out of foul trouble for the most part. Rylie got in a little foul trouble early, but other than that I don't think we had anyone in foul trouble all night, which helped us."
Their dominating defense set the tempo in the third quarter though, and the rout was on. They held North Posey to just five points in the third quarter, forcing turnover after turnover. With a 55-30 lead at the end of the third quarter, coach Willis used it as an opportunity to relax on the pressure defense and transition opportunities and rather, work on their offensive sets. It's a luxury to be able to get some reps for reserves and work on your sets. They struggled with some of the sets, as coach Willis mandated that all shots [if taken], needed to come within the paint.
"No." coach Willis laughingly said about seeing any good things in their late sets. "We didn't run it very well, we have a lot of work to do. We have to get better at finishing games and understand what we want. We called a timeout, we wanted shots down low and we took two shots from outside right away. We called timeouts and said that's not what we're looking to do. We'll get there."
It was a nice bounce back victory for a team in desperate search of a victory. They've faced a brutal stretch, but hopefully those days will be past them moving forward.
"I thought our effort continued from the other night," coach Willis said. "I thought our kids were playing a little better, they were playing with confidence. Mollie had a great game tonight which helped us and of course Maya had another good game. We had a lot of kids step up. Haley Wright played her best game of the year off the bench. I thought all of the way through our lineup, our kids played pretty well tonight."
Mollie Dardeen had a nice game, complimenting Smith well and grabbing some tough boards. Dardeen scored 14 points, including converting eight of 10 free throw attempts. Kassidy Drone had a nice game as well, with several hustle plays, causing steals, offensive boards and scoring nine points.
Mount Carmel will be allotted a couple weeks to regather, with the group returning on Dec. 30, just before the new year to regroup and prepare for their next game, Mount Vernon (Ind.) at Mount Carmel High School. The night will begin with the JV team at 6 p.m. and the varsity squad to follow.
"First practice [after break] is always difficult, there's a heck of a lot of running going on to get back in shape. I think we've got three practices in four days then step right back into games. But the games are a little more spread out in the second half of the season so that'll help us."