Golden Aces reach championship game
Marcotte, Carpenter dominate both ends, Mount Carmel wins 67-55
PEORIA – Basketball is a very simple game when you take a long look at it.

And if you are blessed with two 6-foot-8 athletic players, the game gets even less complex.

Mount Carmel head coach Tyler Buss has that luxury and, because of those two player who compliment each other so immensely, his Golden Aces are on the verge of winning the school's first state championship in boy's basketball since 1927.

Six-foot-eight junior Jackson Marcotte and 6-foot-8 senior Justin Carpenter have proven to be too much for the opposition to handle in this postseason run.

The duo combined to score 36-points and grab 27-rebounds in the Aces' 67-55 win Friday night against Kankakee McNamara that moved them to within one win of the state championship.

The brass ring could become Golden on Saturday night.

“They complement each other. Jackson, the job he does inside and Justin, very underrated in the things he can see on the floor in terms of his passing, especially on the perimeter; and both of them rebound,” said Coach Buss. “They did a good job of going up and getting it at its highest point. They did the job tonight.”

Known for decades as a powerhouse football program, these Aces of the hardwood have had a successful recent run under Coach Buss.

Now sitting at 29-4 on the season, Mount Carmel will tackle Chicago Orr on Saturday night after the Spartans dispatched Monticello, 62-44 in the other semifinal game played Friday night.

Marcotte, despite playing just 19-minutes due to foul problems, scored 21-points and grabbed 13-rebounds for the Aces.

Carpenter, especially while Marcotte was on the bench, dominated in the paint on the defensive end.

The Southeast Missouri University signee scored 15-points, snagged a game-best 14-rebounds and rejected six-shots by the Fightin' Irish as the Aces kept the opponents from getting comfy in the lane.

He also handed out six-assists from his spot at the high post.

Six-foot-three sophomore Austin Rager came up big on the night as he ended up with 11-points and grabbed six-rebounds.

The Aces got seven-points each from guard Brayden Stipp and Bret Doan.

As a whole, Mount Carmel dominated each end although the final score wasn't as big of an indicator.

Kankakee McNamara saw their record slip to 24-8 on the season by being held to just 23-of-68 from the floor (33.8 percent) while being outrebounded 41-31.

“Give credit to Mount Carmel, they played real well. Those two kids – Marcotte and Carpenter – are good players. Good luck to them, I hope they win the state title,” said McNamara head coach Adrian Provost. “We played hard, we did not play well. It's unfortunate it happens here at the Final Four, but that happens sometimes. I'm happy with the locker room I'm in.”

Dylan Post led the Irish with 15-points while Tevin Watson added 14 and Dante Owens-Graves tossed in 12.

“You kind of have to pick your poison with those guys. You have players like Post and Bell, those are obviously the two big focal points. I thought we did a good job of making things difficult,” said Coach Buss. “We knew they were going to score points, we wanted to make them take tough, contested shots and I thought we did a good job of that.”

The Aces pounded the ball inside to Marcotte in the early stages of the game and the junior power forward proved too powerful for McNamara.

He scored the first five points for Mount Carmel, on a score inside on the blocks and then a three-point play after picking up a steal.

His spinning move in the lane resulted in an “And-One” and a 5-0 lead just :34 into the game.

He ended up with 11-points in the quarter and when he powered his way for another bucket, after Doan lite up the sky with a 3-point bomb, the Aces led 16-6.

McNamara rallied several times in the game but none were sustained long enough to get a lead.

Three consecutive turnovers by Mount Carmel resulted in points at the end of the quarter.

Watson, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored on a drive to the basket while teammate Chris Bell (who ended up with eight-points) scored consecutive buckets with the second one on a steal and fast break lay in to close the quarter at 18-14 Aces.

In spite of Marcotte going to the bench with his second foul with 5:12 remaining in the second, the Aces held the lead as Blake Golden came in off the bench for Marcotte and contributed points.

He and Doan both finished at the rim on assists by Carpenter as Mount Carmel made it to intermission up 29-24.

How important is Marcotte to the Aces?

The first three times he touched the ball in the second half he scored.

He made a pair of nice moves in the lane and then took a pass from Carpenter for a fast break score and a 35-24 lead with 6:45 left in the third.

The Irish never could put together a long enough run to dent the Aces advantage in the third quarter.

A basket by Owens-Graves at the end of the third cut the Mount Carmel lead to just 49-42.

Kankakee McNamara's final push got the Irish briefly to within four-points.

Consecutive scores from Owens-Graves and Watson, the second score on a fast break lay in, cut the Aces' lead to just 52-48 with a lot of time left (5:52) in the game.

But that marked the end of the drama as Coach Buss' club took it up a notch to close out the game.

A 9-0 run, with Carpenter picking up yet another assist to Stipp and two additional scores by Rager pushed the lead to 61-48.

Marcotte picked up a very questionable fourth foul but stayed in the game as the Aces finished off the Irish at the end.

Carpenter added a fast break score and Marcotte and Stipp combined for 4-of-6 from the foul line that propelled the Golden Aces into the title game.

The Aces finished 25-of-43 overall from the field (58.1 percent) with most of that success coming from Marcotte and Carpenter.

Marcotte hit 7-of-12 shots while Carpenter ended up 5-of-9 from the floor.

They also combined to make 12-of-16 free throw attempt as the team was 16-of-26.

Of the 67-points scored by Mount Carmel, 42 of them were scored in the paint.

“It seems the bigger the stage, the better they play. There was no doubt in their mind they were going to come out and play well tonight,” said Coach Buss about his club. “They did exactly what we told them to do in terms of following the game plan.”

For the Fightin' Irish, the numbers weren't as pretty as they not only shot poorly overall, they were just 2-of-13 from the arc and just 7-of-13 from the charity stripe.

“They did a nice job of keeping us out of the paint. We were really sluggish on offense. Some of it could have been nerves, some of it was obviously them and we didn't shoot the ball well. We couldn't get out on the break and they really hurt us in the post,” said Coach Provost. “We just could never get that next play. It was frustrating for me and obviously more frustrating for these guys. We're 24-8, so 24 times this year we had gotten the loose ball. Tonight, we didn't. I told our guys that only one team leaves extremely happy.”

Ironically the one time that Mount Carmel won a state title in football (their bread and butter sport) they beat Kankakee Bishop McNamara in the 1981 3A championship game.

Mount Carmel
Kankakee McNamara
Mount Carmel (67) – Carpenter 5 0 5-6 15, Marcotte 7 0 7-10 21, Stipp 2 0 3-7 7, Doan 2 1 0-0 7, Rager 5 0 1-2 11, Golden 3 0 0-1 6.
2FG-24, 3FG-1, FT-16-26, PF-12.

Kankakee McNamara (55) – Barnes 1 0 0-0 2, Watson 7 0 0-4 14, Bell 4 0 0-0 8, Post 5 0 5-7 15, Chavers 2 0 0-0 4, Washington 0 0 0-0 0, Hubbard 0 0 0-0 0, Owens-Graves 2 2 2-2 12, Andrews 0 0 0-0 0. 2FG-21, 3FG-2, FT-7-13, PF-23.
Fouled Out – Owens-Graves - Kankakee McNamara.
Technical Fouls – None.