OAK LAWN | Mount Carmel almost got caught looking ahead to archrival St. Rita on Tuesday night in their regional game against St. Ignatius.
The Caravan spotted the Wolfpack an 8-0 lead early in the first quarter before using an 11-2 run to take control of the game on the way to a 51-43 victory.
“We were very lethargic in the first quarter,” Caravan coach Kevin Flaherty said. “I’m not sure if they were looking ahead or if it was just first game jitters but we have to have a better game Friday.”
St. Ignatius came out firing on all cylinders in the early going, hitting four of their first five shots and frustrating the Mount Carmel (21-8) with their zone defense.
Gabe Grant finally got the offense going for the Caravan midway through the first quarter getting the ball inside and taking advantage of the smaller Wolfpack (10-15) for a pair of easy layups.
“Their zone definitely bothered us early in the game,” Grant said. “We like to push the tempo and move the ball and they slowed down the game so we just had to adjust and find a way to get it in.”
Part of the adjustment for the Caravan was picking up the intensity on defense and forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets on the other end while limiting St. Ignatius to five points in the second quarter.
“I like to play on the perimeter and drive,” Grant said. “They weren’t very big so I tried to drive to the hoop whenever I could, with the slow start just wanted to keep the team in the game early.”
Christian Searles led the defensive charge for the Caravan with three steals and limited St. Ignatius sharp-shooter Lester Larry to just six points for the game while scoring 13 of his own.
“We came out very lethargic,” Searles said. “We have to play with more intensity and have a better effort on Friday if we want to beat Rita.”
Although Mount Carmel was able to take control, they were unable to put St. Ignatius away until the final moments of regulation. The Wolfpack were able to battle back from double digit deficits twice in the fourth quarter and get the lead down to six.
“Coach (Rich) Kehoe does a great job and they are always prepared,” Flaherty said. “They were missing a couple guys so our guys may have thought they wouldn’t have to do as much but Ignatius played hard.”
With St. Ignatius forced to foul late, Searles and David Nichols combined to hit six of seven free-throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Caravan.
With the victory, Mount Carmel will face St. Rita Friday night in the regional championship.
“It won’t be hard to get up for that game,” Searles said. “They’re a great team and we’ll have to play a better game to get the win but I want to keep my undefeated streak going against them.”