OAK LAWN | St. Rita ended Mt. Carmel's season with a convincing win at Oak Lawn High School Friday night for the Oak Lawn Regional final.
The Caravan (21-9) played the game tight most of the night, but were ultimately done in by the team's inability to get to the basket. The team only connected on seven field goals the entire game, falling to the Mustangs 55-35.
"Early in the game they (St. Rita) blocked some shots, but in the second half, we had good shooters miss some shots they've made all year," said Mt. Carmel head coach Mike Flaherty.
Even with the uncharacteristically poor performance, the Caravan were within striking distance up until the final minutes; St. Rita's lead was only six at the end of the third quarter. The game turned ugly after the Mustangs built up an 11 point lead with three minutes left on the clock, and Northwestern-bound Victor Law busted open the game and deflated any chance for a Caravan comeback.
"It almost felt like the game of the century," said Law, who led all scorers with 20 points, all but five of those scored in the final quarter.
"It was a packed house, and this is like the biggest rivalry in Illinois."
The crowd, estimated around 1,400 by Oak Lawn administrators, at Friday night's game against the Chicago Catholic League rivals was energetic and only standing room was available just minutes before tip-off. Fans of the two teams heckled on another throughout the game, with Carmel fans ending the final minutes focusing on its back-to-back state football championships the past two years.
The Caravan have had a rough two weeks, starting with the loss to De LaSalle in the Chicago Catholic League tournament final in overtime.
"We had two bad games against De LaSalle and Rita, tonight, and it wasn't a reflection of how we played," Flaherty said.
"It's unfortunate this is going to be how we remember the last game of the season for our seniors."
Gabe Grant led the Caravan 14 points, while David Nichols scored nine.
Even though Mount Carmel lost, the players said they would not dwell on the game.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with the loss," said senior guard Christian Searles, who played his last game for the Caravan.
"But when I look back on my career, I feel like I gave it my all."
The win gives the Mustang's its first regional title in more than a decade and will face King in the sectional semifinal Tuesday at Marist High School.