CHICAGO | Mount Carmel coach Mike Flaherty knows the difference between one guard who can handle the ball and two. Caravan ran their winning streak t
The third-ranked Caravan ran their winning streak to seven with a 65-58 victory over St. Joseph on Friday night. The outcome, the first loss for the Chargers (16-4, 8-1) in Catholic League play this season, brings Mount Carmel (16-6, 8-2) closer to the top of the league's North bracket.
Much of the reason for the run is the presence of Christian Searles in the lineup. The ace cornerback wasn't immediately available to Flaherty after the football season because of injury and college visits. But since he's back, the Caravan is on the move. Now, David Nichols has company in the backcourt, and can no longer be double-teamed.
"It makes it a lot easier," Nichols said after his 20-point, six-rebound performance. "When I get tired, I have somebody to pick up on the ball-handling and the offense."
Searles contributed 19 points, like Nichols drilling a pair of 3-pointers in the course of the game, and was nearly as much a defensive force on the court as he is on the football field. But Nichols runs the show.
"I thought he let the game come to him tonight," Flaherty said. "And having Christian makes everyone better."
A Nichols 3-pointer 2:03 into the third quarter gave the Caravan the lead for good. Threes by Searles and Gabe Grant in the next two minutes moved the advantage to 40-35. The Chargers pulled to within three on three occasions, but couldn't get closer. Glynn Watson's 22 points led St. Joseph, with Joffrey Brown adding 20 points.
Nichols pointed to an intangible that also arrived with Searles' presence.
"We're much more of a team," Nichols said. "Him and other football players have brought their success from state championships. They're kind of teaching us to play as a team. Everybody's buying in, playing their roles, executing."
The state tournament is a month away. Mount Carmel, as always, is lined up to advance to the same Class 4A sectional as Simeon and other worthies.
"It's the toughest sectional, probably, in Illinois, and we'll probably have a tough regional," Nichols. "We always see a high-ranked team."
More wins like Friday's, and it'll be like looking in a ranking mirror.