ROBINSON — The final 16 will dwindle down to eight Friday night, and at the Robinson Sectional, Mount Carmel will attempt to knock out Teutopolis for the second straight season in the championship game at 7 o'clock.
"It just feels right, Mount Carmel against T-town for a sectional championship," said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss. "We've obviously got a lot of history the past few years. I can't imagine there being many seats in here on Friday night. It should be a lot of fun."
The Aces eliminated St. Anthony Tuesday night, 78-66, the defending Class A state champs — who were playing up a class because of the success factor. Then on Wednesday, Teutopolis defeated Eldorado, 56-52, setting up Friday's championship tilt.
Friday's game will mark the third straight season the two teams will face each other at the sectional. Two years ago, the Wooden Shoes defeated Mount Carmel, 62-44, in the opening round of sectional. Then last year, on their way to the IHSA Class 2A state championship games, the Golden Aces knocked out Teutopolis, 66-64. This will be the first time in the three-year stretch their sectional matchup will be in the championship game.
"You'll look at things, but with technology nowadays you'll get their next four or five games of teams they've played," said Buss. "We're a much different team with the wildcard Jackson [Marcotte] in terms of, we're not sure how they'll defend us. We've actually watched that film, and now we'll go to work on T-town the next couple days."
The teams have also played three straight times during the regular season at the Lawrence County Capital Classic. The Aces defeated the Shoes, 64-62, to win the Capital Classic last year.
Earlier this season, Teutopolis defeated Mount Carmel in the Capital Classic championship game in overtime, 72-70.
"Mount Carmel is really good," said Teutopolis head coach Jason Hanson. "Now that Marcotte is back, he was the best player we played against last year. It wasn't even close. He dominated the games we played against them.
"We did a good job on most of their other guys, and even though he's not at 100 percent, he impacts the game and makes it difficult for other teams and he's going to make it easier for the other guys to have opportunities."
The Wooden Shoes are 22-8 heading into Friday's championship while the Aces are 19-11 after their win Tuesday against St. Anthony.
We have to play the way we've been playing. It all starts with our defense. If we continue to play defense the way we've been playing it, I think we'll find enough points out there. We have to keep guarding the way we've been, and if we can do that, we'll give ourselves a shot.
"We talk with our team all the time about the first team that can settle in and play basketball, usually will have the advantage in these big games," said Buss. "We talk a lot about trusting our schedule, trusting the things we've done and just settling in and playing our game. We've done a good job of that the last few games, and we have to continue to do that."
The Aces were led Tuesday by the 26 points from senior Brayden Stipp. Marcotte added 18, and Austin Rager pitched in 16.
"Mount Carmel plays a very good schedule," said Hanson. "Marcotte's been out so people might not look at what's happened to them and who they are, but I know the quality of their team and their players and Marcotte being out was huge and they play a very tough schedule on top of that. You can throw their record out. You can throw our record out. We're going to have to show up and play and see what we can do."
Teutopolis was led Wednesday night by Lee Hardiek's 20 points. Clint Weber was the other Wooden Shoes' player in double digits as he finished with 14 points.
"It all starts with [Mitch] Hardiek," said Buss. "He's going to score his points. We have to make him earn them. He's a great shooter. They go as he goes. He's priority one. We'll figure out the rest of them, but Hardiek is the guy we've got to control if we want to have a chance to beat T-town."
Mount Carmel has won eight of nine games, and coach Buss believes it's been the defensive side where his team has shined during the latter part of the season.
"[Defense] has been our calling card here for the better part of our success," said Buss. "We've used our defense to not only stop other teams but to create turnovers and get out in transition and get our transition game going. That will be important, for sure, on Friday."
The winner will advance to Tuesday's Super-Sectional at Carbondale inside SIU Arena against the winner from the Trenton (Wesclin) sectional winner between either Wesclin and Pinckneyville.
Contact Register Sports Editor Paul Wilcoxen at (618) 263-1004, email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulwilcoxen