FLORA — Richland County gave the Junior Aces all they could handle on Saturday.
Despite a 16-5 halftime lead in Mount Carmel’s favor, the Tigers started to come alive and find their rhythm.
One Tiger in particular became red hot behind the arc to spark the charge. Following a number of highly difficult shots, the lead was trimmed down to just 32-28 with 2:40 remaining.
Following another Richland County three and a free throw by Junior Ace Levi Beesley, the lead was down to just two with 52 seconds remaining.
Thankfully Mount Carmel did the little things down the stretch necessary to win.
With potentially the fate of the game in his hands, Junior Ace Andrew Gillihan stepped to the charity stripe and nailed four straight crucial free throws, increasing the lead to 37-31 in the waning seconds.
Defensively the Junior aces managed to force a couple turnovers and difficult shots down the stretch to stave off the charge and ultimately prevail 41-35, claiming the regional championship.
With the victory the Junior Aces advanced to the SIJHSAA State tournament at Rend Lake College next weekend, where they’ll face Casey on Saturday, Feb. 15 at noon.
We’ll be at the contest, so be sure to follow the Register’s Facebook page for updates on the Junior Aces and potentially throughout the tournament if they’re to advance.