The Carmel boys basketball team is in the unusual position this season of being a team that is the hunted rather than the hunter.
Off to its best start in nearly 30 years, the Corsairs have found of late that they can no longer sneak up on opposing teams.
Even as the home team Friday night, visiting Nazareth was waiting for the Corsairs on senior night, and Roadrunners senior Michael Brooks and his teammates were ready.
The visitors looked far more polished than their .500 record would indicate as they used a decisive 14-3 run late in the fourth quarter to hand Carmel a 56-47 loss in Mundelein.
The loss was the second straight in conference play for Carmel as the Corsairs fell to 18-5 overall, 2-3 in league play. Nazareth moved to 9-8 overall and 2-3 in league play.
"There is no one on this team that is good enough to not work hard," said Carmel coach Tim Bowen. "We got outworked. (Nazareth) outshot us, they got to the basket better than us and they outhustled us."
Carmel looked as if it would take control in the second quarter thanks in large part to the blazingly hot shooting of sophomore Chris Duff. He hit the first 6 shots he took and helped dig the Corsairs out from an early hole. His 15 first-half points helped Carmel take a 24-23 halftime advantage.
The second half belonged to Nazareth, and to Brooks in particular. The Roadrunner guard seemed to embody the Nazareth mascot as he ran over, around and through the Carmel defense. His 10 point third quarter helped Nazareth build a 40-35 lead after three and led to a game high and career-best 21 points for Brooks.
"Tonight was a good start to a long streak that I hope we continue," Brooks said. "The basket looked real big to me and I was happy to help get my team the win."
The hosts did pull to as close as 40-39 with 7:03 left on a Jack George bucket, but that was as close as Carmel got. Nazareth scored 12 of the next 13 points to open up a double digit advantage. George did his best to keep Carmel close, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the second half.
"When we have to go out and play against players that are better than us, we have to play a lot harder than we did tonight," Bowen said. "This is the ESCC. You either come to play hard, come to play physical, or you are going to lose and that is what happened tonight."
To go with Brooks' fine night was a 12 point, 7-rebound effort from fellow senior Kevin Connelly and a very workmanlike 11-point, 6-board, 6-steal night from senior Kevin McLaughlin.