MT. CARMEL, ILL. — Everything came up Aces for the Washington Hatchets on Friday at Mt. Carmel as Washington claimed a share of the Big 8 Conference title with a 55-45 win.
Grant Niehaus led Washington (14-6, 5-1) with 21 points as the Hatchets finished their conference slate tied with Jasper and Princeton atop the league standings. But it wouldn’t come easy against a competitive Mt. Carmel (12-15, 2-4) squad on Senior Night at the Golden Aces’ Hill Top gym.
Bryce Browning and Tyson Wright each netted 11 points apiece for the Hatchets, who played a gritty contest to get the win and impressed coach Gene Miiller.
“I thought we played really well. I thought we played with some toughness, grit; we played together. We had guys come off the bench and give us some good minutes,” said Miiller. “We stayed intact throughout the basketball game. I liked the way that we attacked things, we were aggressive, we were patient when we needed to be. I just really thought we played a great ballgame.”
Washington built a nine-point lead late in the third quarter and fronted 38-34 heading into the final eight minutes of action. But the Golden Aces cut the lead to one at 42-41 on a pair of free throws by Austin Rager with 4:40 to play. Rager led the Aces with 22 points.
But from that point on WHS outscored the home team 13-4 to secure the win. Niehaus did most of the damage in the final quarter, scoring 11 of his 21 points, including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line in the quarter.
Julius Hardiman added six points for the Hatchets off the bench, followed by two points each from Kiowa Jones, Trey Reed and Hunter Killion. Though he didn’t score, Kyle Mann provided solid minutes off the bench along with Jones and Hardiman as the Hatchets battled foul trouble throughout the game.
“That’s what you have to have when you get in games like this. You have to get guys come off the bench and continue playing the way that the other guys have played,” said Miiller. “I thought Kyle Mann came in and really did a nice job for us. He didn’t score but he played well defensively and he handled the ball well for us.
“Of course Julius came in and played well. And Kiowa came in and gave us three or four minutes there at the start of the fourth quarter,” said Miiller. “That’s what I tell them. Sometimes they’re only in there for two or three minutes, but those may be two or three of the most important minutes of the ballgame. You just have to do what you do and do as well as you do while you’re in the ballgame.”
Kaleb Applebey added 14 points for the Aces, but Mt. Carmel got only five points from one of its leading outside shooters, Bret Doan, who was held scoreless from behind the 3-point line.
Washington led 20-14 after one quarter and 30-25 at the half. Tyson Wright drained a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter on successive possessions and led the Hatchets with 11 points at the half as WHS shot 13-22 (59 percent) in the first half. But five Hatchet turnovers helped keep Mt. Carmel, which shot an even 50 percent (8-16) in the first half, in the game after two periods of play.
Washington claimed the JV game 45-26. Jones led the way for WHS with 16 points, followed by nine from Owen Gray, seven from Zach Gray and five from Lance Roach.
Washington travels to South Knox tonight.