Rager, Aces overcome foul trouble to steal overtime victory in Boonville

Mount Carmel senior Austin Rager drives past a pair of Boonville defenders in overtime. Rager scored 32 points and did his best to will the Aces to victory on Friday night.

BOONVILLE, Ind. -- Foul trouble plagued Mount Carmel much of the night in their game against Boonville on Friday night. Sophomores Kaleb Applebey and Beau Stipp never really got into a rhythm after a couple first half foul calls, limiting both to far fewer minutes than they'd typically receive.

Applebey was the culprit of a pair of fouls in the second half, forcing him to the bench for much of that half as well. Stipp managed to play well without fouling in the second half, but Mount Carmel needed an additional boost. That came in the form of senior Austin Rager.

Rager scored 32 points -- and all of them were needed -- in the Aces' 63-57 road victory over Boonville, a makeup game that was initially slated for Wednesday, but had been shifted to Friday night due to the frigid weather and snow.

"You look at your senior, Austin Rager, who just willed us time after time again," Mount Carmel head coach Tyler Buss said. "Gave us great energy and make just great plays."

You could tell Rager was due for a big night after the first quarter. Rager and senior Bret Doan combined for all 13 (eight for Rager, five for Doan) of Mount Carmel's first quarter points. After his scorching hot start, the Pioneers (1-15) did their best to try to deny the 6-foot-3 senior the ball. Double team, hedge, foul, zone, none of it worked for the Pioneers, who tried to contain Rager.

The two teams battled in a back and forth affair leading up to the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

With 1:30 left, Rager caught the ball at the free throw line and drove through a pair of Pioneer defenders to finish at the rim, giving Mount Carmel a 47-46 lead. Boonville, as was course in the quarter, answered back with a layup of their own with 1:06 remaining and giving the Aces another opportunity.

Doan hit a dagger 3-pointer from the top left key with 48 seconds remaining, setting the stage for a 49-47 Mount Carmel lead and a wild finish.

Boonville was fouled just six seconds later though and coolly swished both free throws, tying the game at 49 all and giving Mount Carmel the ball with under 40 seconds remaining. Stipp brought it up the court against the aggressive Pioneer ball pressure, which was in this case, too aggressive. They fouled Stipp, sending him to the line with the chance to give Mount Carmel the lead with 18 seconds remaining. Stipp stepped to the line, the Boonville students were in absolute pandemonium, the stage was set. Stipp missed both, however, giving Boonville the ball for one final opportunity.

The Pioneers raced it up the floor, but fumbled it with under six seconds left. Mount Carmel raced to the other end for a shot attempt but was unsuccessful, sending the two teams to overtime.

With a raucous crowd in full gear the Aces stepped to the court in overtime and just performed exceedingly well against their foes. Coach Buss' message, be the better team these next four minutes.

"We did a good job there," coach Buss spoke of overtime. "Better team going into overtime, that's what we said to the kids. We survived all of the craziness, now you get four minutes to prove you're the better team and I thought they did a nice job of closing that out."

Boonville struck first in overtime on a transition layup to make it 51-49, but it would be all Mount Carmel after that. Stipp nailed a clutch 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to give the Aces a 52-51 lead. From that point, it was all Rager.

Rager willed Mount Carmel to a couple tough finishes through contact and multiple defenders to give the Aces a four-point lead with under two minutes remaining. Boonville faltered and Mount Carmel took advantage, icing the game with some clutch free throws down the stretch in overtime.

"Second half I knew I was going to have to be more patient and pick and choose my spots when I scored," Rager said. "In overtime I knew I was going to have to force it a little more but as a team I thought we played well and defensively we played well, because that's an athletic team."

Mount Carmel saw some really nice minutes from reserves with some of their starters in foul trouble, including junior Aden Gill's extended run, which saw him hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter. Senior Brock Plassman and freshman Luke Laws each saw additional minutes with Applebey crippled with foul trouble.

"We've known all year, more than likely you're not going to play every game just five or six guys," coach Buss said. "There's going to be games like this where there's fouls, there's going to be injuries. They've been doing a good job, even when they're not getting reps in games, they've been doing a good job in practice of staying ready, knowing what their role is, knowing what they need to do. Aden gave us good minutes, Luke [Laws], Brock Plassman gave us some nice minutes. We had some guys step up and we made enough plays to gut that one out."

Doan joined Rager as the other Ace in double-digits, scoring 13 points on the night. Stipp scored just eight points on the night as he battled foul trouble, but six of his eight came in the overtime period.

Friday night marked the second straight game Rager has scored over 30 points and averages 31.5 ppg over his last two performances. He's not sure if the 30-point outbursts will continue, but he's exceedingly happy with how well he's performing.

"I don't know, maybe I'm real lucky right now," Rager said. "But I'm happy with the way I'm playing."

With the victory Mount Carmel (11-11) reached .500 for the first time since the beginning of the season, which is a considerable accomplishment after their 0-6 start to the season. Since that forgetful start the Aces boast a 11-5 record and continue to show their upside.

They'll have an opportunity to have their first winning record of the season against Herrin in the Rich Herrin Classic in Benton. It'll be an exceptionally tough test for the Aces against an Illinois opponent. The Tigers enter the game 19-4 and the Aces will be coming off an overtime performance with less than 24 hours to rest. The two teams will face in the nightcap of the event with tip-off estimated for 8:30 p.m.

"I didn't love when the schedule came out [for the Rich Herrin Classic] that we had to play the 8:30 game, but we do now have quite a while to rest and try to recover a bit. Our guys are excited, we love going down to Benton. It's a fun day of basketball for everybody, it's a nice long bus trip and our guys love bus trips, I don't as much as they do. But it's a fun day of basketball, they get to spend a lot of time together and we get to play a quality opponent and see where we're at in terms of Southern Illinois."

MC -- 13 13 14 9 14 -- 63

B -- 11 10 13 15 9 -- 57

Mount Carmel scoring: Rager 11 9 32, Doan 3 5 13, Stipp 2 3 8, Gill 1 0 3, Applebey 1 0 2.

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