NEWTON -- Give credit to Robinson for hanging in it with Mount Carmel through the first half of the IHSA 2A Girls Basketball Newton Regional opener.
But when pushed to the limit, Mount Carmel showed why they earned the five seed in the Region.
Senior Kassidy Drone tallied a game-high 23 points, including a 16-point third quarter outburst to spark the Lady Aces to a 72-42 rout of the Maroons on Monday night in Newton.
Mount Carmel (22-9) wasn't at its sharpest defensively in the first half, coupled with Newton's energy on the glass and prowess from beyond the arc. But the Maroons still had little to no answer for the Lady Aces offensively, with junior Maya Smith leading the first half charge.
Smith scored 10 of her 12 first-half points in the first quarter, with five of her points coming in the final 18 seconds of the quarter.
The Maroons would shrink Mount Carmel's lead down to six on several occasions in the second, but each time the Lady Aces responded to silence Robinson's rally hopes.
Mount Carmel Coach Tim Willis' group entered the break ahead 35-27 following a frantically paced first 16 minutes. Willis had his team playing their traditional, up-tempo, quick shot style of offense, but also had his team executing a full-court press -- something Willis said he called upon to wear down the Maroons.
"They did something similar to us in the second game we played them," Willis spoke of the first half. "We just really wanted to press to get their legs. They shot the ball really well in the first half and eventually got tired and we were able to make a run. Once we made one of our patented runs we were ok."
That run came in the form of Drone's third quarter.
Once Drone nailed a couple early 3-pointers, you could see Willis and the Mount Carmel coaches calling plays Drone's way to feed the hot hand. One in particular, a double screen high to set up a Drone 3-pointer. Prior to the shot you could hear Willis telling his team, "I want Drone to shoot it."
"When she got hot we went four straight trips to her just to keep it going," Willis spoke of feeding Drone's hot hand. "Give her credit, she knocked down the shots. Maybe we shouldn't have taken her out start the fourth quarter, gave her a little bit of a breather but the game kind of got away, we didn't have to go back to her. She's able to do that and able to get more aggressive. It was a good time to do it tonight with certainly we'll need more of that tomorrow night."
Thanks to her sudden unconscious shooting, Mount Carmel's lead suddenly swelled to 55-32 at the conclusion of the third, with the Lady Aces tallying a 20-5 advantage in the quarter.
Mount Carmel coasted the remainder of the way, handily picking up their first postseason victory and a sure momentum booster entering a tough Regional Semifinal.
Drone was the game's leading scorer with 23, but Smith also recorded 18 points. Willis also praised his forwards, senior Alli Kell and junior Allie McPherson, who combined for 16 points and battled on the glass.
"Alli Kell had a really nice game for us," Willis added. "[McPherson] certainly did as well, I'm not sure if she got into double-figures but she played well for us. I thought she did a nice job especially on the boards."
Looking to extend their season and keep their postseason aspirations alive, the Lady Aces will have a quick turnaround against the three seed in the Newton Regional, Pana.
The Lady Panthers (24-7) lack common opponents with Mount Carmel other than Newton and Teutopolis (both teams went 1-1 in those contests), so it should be a battle of unfamiliar opponents.
Sophomore Jillian Hamilton leads Pana in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) and should offer quite an imposing challenge to the Lady Ace bigs. If they're to prevail, keeping Hamilton off the glass will have to be an utmost priority.
"Pana's an excellent ball club," Willis said. "They've got a lot of size, are going to give us some problems defensively. That's been our emphasis all year, when we play good defense we're good, when we don't the other teams hang around and it gets you into some trouble,"
"We have to hit the boards and we have to shoot the ball well. We'll see what happens. We like that opportunity. We've got experience but again, that first win for this group was big in the playoffs."
Tip-off against Pana is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Newton. We'll provide quarterly coverage on the Facebook page throughout the contest.
MC -- 18 17 20 17 -- 72
R -- 12 15 5 10 -- 42
Lady Ace scorers: Drone 9 1 23, Smith 5 6 18, Webb 4 2 10, Kell 5 0 10, McPherson 3 0 6, Riggs 1 1 3, Wright 1 0 2.
Next up: Tuesday, Feb. 11 vs. Pana at Newton; 7:30 p.m. tip-off.