Carmel tops Notre Dame for regional crown
Regardless of the level of postseason it happens to be, the IHSA sends a team championship award to the host school to be handed out to the winning team.
In applying this toward Friday night's boys basketball Class 3A regional final between host Notre Dame and visiting Carmel, the home team was determined to make sure that Athletic Director Mike Hennessy handed out the square-size championship plaque to the Dons and not to their opponents.
Unfortunately for the Dons, thanks to the effort and leadership of Carmel's starting backcourt they witnessed Hennessy hand the fifth-seeded that award as they pulled away from ND 65-48 to win the program's 14th regional title in school history and first since 2019.
It also avenged a pair of losses to No. 3 seed Notre Dame during East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
Carmel (23-10) now advances to Wednesday's North Chicago sectional semifinal to face fellow ESCC member and second-seeded St. Patrick (21-10). The Shamrocks won 54-47 at Vernon Hills Friday.
"Hats off to our guys. They've been so committed this year and they've gone through so much the last couple of years with COVID-19," a sweat-soaked Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. "These guys have come a long way as you can see (as they celebrated with their fellow classmates). Our chemistry has been growing and growing as the season has gone on. We made a lot of shots, we defended (well). We played our best game of the year against a team that beat us twice."
Leading the way for the Corsairs were senior guards Bryce Moore (29 points) and Asher Jackson (20 points). Along with junior backcourt mate James Dwyer (12 points) the trio combined for 61 of Carmel's points.
Moore got the ball rolling with 20 in the first half that lifted the guests on the scoreboard to a 26-23 lead at the break. That helped set the tone for what became the decisive third quarter as Carmel outscored the Dons 14-4 to give them a 40-27 advantage heading into the fourth while holding ND to just 1-for-14 from the floor.
"We knew what we had to do," Moore said. "We lost to ND twice this year. I knew that I had to come out with a lot of energy. Score, play defense, get my teammates involved so they can get me involved."
In the second half, Jackson tallied 16 points while all of Dwyer's 12 helped the Corsairs build a lead that got as high as 21 at 65-44 in the final two minutes.
Moore praised his fellow senior Jackson, who he has known since they were in the eighth grade.
"(Heck) of a player. That's my man," Moore said. "This is what we've been working together for, this (moment)."
All-ESCC guard Sonny Williams' 18 points paced Notre Dame.