MOUNT CARMEL — Find a way — that’s been the team motto for Mount Carmel Coach Tyler Buss’ group this season.
Time after time the Aces have found a way, winning when it’s not been the prettiest, but a win nonetheless. They’ve really bought into the concept, though it may be best used to describe Mount Carmel’s senior group.
Each have blazed their own unique path, but Mount Carmel’s latest crop of seniors all share that one consistent trait — finding a way.
The seven seniors, Evan Acree, Aden Gill, John Harrington, Kyle Kline, Satchel Patberg, Trevor Peterson and Trenton Wilkinson will conclude their careers as Aces with one last home game at the Hilltop on Monday against Richland County in what’s sure to be an emotional finale.
Evan AcreeWhen Acree joined the team as a freshman, Buss said he couldn’t have envisioned the now 6-foot-2 senior would still be a part of the program.
Acree entered as a freshman who lacked some of the skill and athleticism which his counterparts possessed, but Acree never gave up.
Now Acree’s one of seven seniors for this group and a crowd favorite at the Hilltop. He’s scored on several occasions this year, showing his smooth jumper and each time he does, the crowd and bench love it.
“I’m sure we’ll get a few Acree chants on Monday,” Buss spoke of Acree. “He’s a kid where if he has time he can put the ball in the hole. He’s got a good shot, he added a nice shot fake, pull-up jumper in the Carmi Tournament that he busted out. But a great kid, he knows the game. He’s limited in what he can do, but he’s the first guy in there on the scout team in practice.”
Buss said he’s really happy Acree stuck with it and always kept a positive, team-first mindset.
“It would’ve been easy for him to take the easy road and hang out with his friends on game night and not be a part of it,” Buss added. “But he’s put in the sacrifices, put in the time and really, really happy Evan’s managed to be around this long.”
Aden GillA leader both on the gridiron and on the basketball floor, Gill’s been a main fixture for Aces athletics this season and really exemplifies the finding a way mantra.
Whether it be in football or basketball, there’s no way a 5-foot-6 cornerback or guard could sustain the level of success Gill’s enjoyed — but Gill worked his hardest to refine his skills to and hone in on maximizing his skillset despite his physical limitations.
“Aden has far exceeded my expectations for him this year.” Buss spoke of Gill. “He almost has to play perfect, he can’t get away with the stuff that somebody 5-11, 6-foot, 6-1 can get away with and he knows that. That’s the great thing about Aden, he’s smart enough to know what he can do and can’t do and uses that in his game. Super proud of Aden, he’s a glue guy, whatever role you give him he takes.”
Serving primarily as a gritty defender and a spot up shooter last season, Gill’s now taken the leap to the starting rotation and routinely hounds opposing ball handlers defensively.
Though Gill’s struggled with his shot at times this season — with Buss deeming him as the worst luck shooter on the team — Buss said just wait and see, his senior will make a big postseason shot at some point, he’ll find a way.
“I think that explains Aden perfectly, he finds a way to get whatever he needs done,” Buss added. “Whether it be in the classroom, the football field, the baseball diamond, the basketball floor, he finds a way to get it done. Sometime during this postseason run he’s going to hit a big shot for us. That’s the type of kid he is. He finds a way.”
John HarringtonHaving worked his way back from an injury in football last season, Harrington was finally knocking on the door for a big time varsity role in his senior basketball campaign.
While Harrington worked his way back into the fold, he wowed Buss with the flashes of his potential.
Buss envisioned Harrington to be a potential starter, if not sixth man type role for the Aces, a 6-foot-4 big who could add a much needed presence inside outside of Kaleb Applebey.
That vision came crashing down when Harrington suffered yet another injury, this one a knee injury which would sideline him for his entire senior season.
“He’s close with a lot of those other seniors, so not being able to go out and battle with those other guys — he’s not a guy that shows a lot of emotion but I know it’s killing him, I know it’s killing me,” Buss spoke of Harrington. “It’ll be a tough night watching John walk out there because you just think of all he’s been through and what could have been this year.”
Much like Acree (though differentiating circumstances), it would have been just as easy for Harrington to fold mentally, feel sorry for himself and drop off the map from this team. Instead he’s remained a constant presence on the bench and someone Buss calls the team’s biggest supporter.
“He’s the first guy off the bench cheering,” Buss added. “Just showing even through adversity he’s handling things better than a lot of us would. Really proud of John. . . He was going to have a big year. It stinks for us, but more importantly just really hard for him.”
Kyle KlineIn his junior high days playing time was far and few for Kline.
He struggled to make an impact enough to burst onto the scene and forge a role for himself, but much like his counterparts, Kline found a way.
As he grew into his body and matured, Kline grew leaps and bounds, most notably this senior year. He went from a JV player last season to a guy who’s started varsity on a handful of occasions, much like his progression on the gridiron.
“Really, really proud of Kyle,” Buss spoke of Kline. “The maturation process he’s went through from his freshman year until now is really remarkable and you’ve seen it in all sports. You’ve seen it in football, now in basketball. He’s a kid who in junior high was at the very end of the bench even with his grade. Just like this group has, stuck with it, kept getting better and got more skill. He started to develop his body and you throw him out there as a senior.”
Kline rotates in and out as a 3 or a 4 for the Aces, offering an imposing rebounding presence but also a capable shooter from behind the arc as a lefty.
Buss said Kline’s currently hobbled with an ankle injury, but hopes his senior will be healthy enough to lace them up for one last contest at the Hilltop.
“Hopefully he’ll be back and ready for Monday,” Buss added. “But we’re just really lucky to have Kyle and proud of the way he’s grown and matured over the last three to four years.”
Satchel PatbergWhen identifying potential contributors in the off-season, Buss likened Patberg to play in a role as a reserve big off the bench.
Standing at 6-foot, Patberg doesn’t have overwhelming size for the position, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism.
Behind guys like Applebey, Luke Laws and Kline, the minutes haven’t been as consistent for Patberg, but he’s always ready when called upon, whenever one of the Aces bigs are riddled with foul trouble. He provides an instant presence off the bench and an imposing athlete for foes to deal with when he’s on the floor.
“I’m really proud of him because he’ll go four or five games without getting in at all, then there’s a game where we get in foul trouble and he’s an instant spark,” Buss spoke of Patberg. “He gets a rebound, gets a put back, beats his man down the floor for a layup. That’s one thing I can say about Satchel, he’s ready whenever needed, he knows his role, plays really hard and really fast.”
Furthermore, Buss spoke of Patberg’s tremendous attitude, citing that he’s never seen the senior upset or discontent with a situation. To add with his poise as a basketball player, he’s an exceptional locker room guy to have, always encouraging his teammates and maintaining that same positive outlook he always has.
“A quiet kid who finally as a senior you’re getting a little more out of him, seeing that personality, laughing, making jokes, things like that,” Buss added. “Again, just the fact he’s always ready to go. ... It’d be easy for him to sit in the back and let the younger guys go, but he’s out there everyday trying to make us better and that does — that definitely helps our program.”
Trevor PetersonTo go through the kind of adversity Peterson went through his junior season and show the resiliency and determination to come back and end his career strong, it’s really a testament to Peterson’s character.
Peterson suffered a pair of devastating knee injuries his junior season, one in football, the other a complete ACL tear in basketball during the Boonville JV game, just his second game returning from the football injury.
Since returning this season Buss has been cautious with how he’s called upon Peterson, citing his desire not to compromise Peterson’s baseball season with another injury, but does appear to be loosening the leash a little on Peterson’s playing time.
He’s started to earn a share of minutes as the seventh or eighth guy off the bench, offering a shooting wing presence when he’s in the ballgame.
“I don’t think his knee is anywhere near where he’d like it to be in terms of moving laterally, so that’s limited him,” Buss spoke of Peterson. “There’s been certain games where it’s been harder to play him just because he’s not all there with his knee, but you talk a guy that’s absolutely worked his tail off to enjoy his senior year. I know he’s going to go on and have a great baseball season as well, but he’s definitely given us a big lift off the bench.”
In addition, Buss said Peterson’s an even better person than he is a basketball player and a welcome addition to this team down the stretch.
“He’s a joy to be around and a great ambassador for our whole school.” Buss added. “He does things the right way all of the time and for that we’re very thankful to have Trev around the program the last four years.”
Trenton WilkinsonWilkinson rounds out the group of seniors as another quiet, athletic type presence for the Aces.
Though Buss professed that Wilkinson played more toward the beginning of the season, he said his gritty presence has been a real asset to the Aces in practice.
His prowess defensively offers a real challenge for Mount Carmel’s guards — such as Beau Stipp — in practice. That prowess on the defensive side of the ball’s an attribute which could earn Wilkinson some playing time in some late game postseason scenarios.
“Trent’s a kid that even back to last year, if we needed a defensive stopper at the end of a quarter we’d throw him in there,” Buss spoke of Wilkinson. “He’s so athletic, so active with his hands. I think he’s been good for guys like Beau and Aden to go against in practice. When he gets up in you, he really makes you work. He’s a tough guy to pass the ball on, gets his hands on a lot of things.”
Despite his playing time fluctuating, Buss said Wilkinson has been another guy who just continues to chip away and come to practice every day with a team-first mentality, eyeing whatever it takes to push his team over the hump.
“His demeanor’s never changed, his attitude’s never changed,” Buss added. “He comes to work and practice everyday, gives us his all and really helps give those guards something to go against in practice every night.”
Senior NightWith Senior Night coming on Monday against Richland County, Buss wants to send off this group in victorious fashion for their home finale, though he admitted it’s a tough act to balance.
On one hand he wants to play his seniors, possibly start even if it’s for a short period of time, but said the coaching staff hasn’t reached any final decision in that regard.
“This night is about the seniors and the last night they get to play at the Hilltop, but I’ve not had a Senior Night that’s very enjoyable when you lose,” Buss said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to win the game, we’ll figure out the lineup things as we go. ... Toward the end of the game when we take them out for the last time, we’ll make sure they get the recognition they deserve.”
Standing in their way of a Senior Night victory is a formidable foe, the Richland County Tigers (15-10).
The Aces defeated the Tigers 52-46 back on Nov. 30 in the Capital Classic, though both teams are vastly different now.
It’ll be a tough game, but as this group has done time and time again, they’ll find a way.
Senior Night will begin with the JV team tipping off at 5:30 p.m. (schedule lists 6:15 p.m., it has since been changed to 5:30 p.m.), with the Senior Night festivities and varsity tip-off to follow.