Being undefeated in January isn’t an accident in high school basketball. Mount Carmel has a star guard, DeAndre Craig, and a team that is more than the sum of its parts. The Caravan were disciplined and unselfish on their way to 17 consecutive wins to open the season.
It fell apart rather quickly Friday. Mount Carmel missed its first 16 three-pointers and never found its footing as visiting St. Ignatius dominated from beginning to end in a 75-58 win.
“And they shot 68% from the floor,” Caravan coach Phil Segroves said. “Unbelievable. Of course, we didn’t want to lose. We knew one was coming in the next few weeks. But we didn’t envision it being like this.”
St. Ignatius junior Richard Barron opened the game with a long three-pointer and just kept at it. Barron went 7-for-14 from three-point range and had 32 points and 10 rebounds.
“It felt good, finally making some shots,” Barron said. “It felt great to see them go in.”
The Wolfpack’s start to the season didn’t go as planned. But since a close loss to Brother Rice a week ago, they’ve knocked off Bolingbrook, DePaul Prep and now Mount Carmel.
“We knew what we signed up for at the beginning of the season,” St. Ignatius senior Kolby Gilles said. “We dropped a couple, and people started doubting us. We never lost hope.”
The Wolfpack have been in a shooting funk most of the season. Barron kept working.
“My dad is my main workout guy,” Barron said. “We shoot all the time, work on game shots. And my teammates definitely helped prepare me for game moments.”
Senior AJ Redd had 15 points for St. Ignatius (11-7), and Gilles added nine points and five rebounds.
“Our guys did a great job of knowing the personnel and adhering to the scouting report,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said, “especially with our coverages on ball screens.”
Mount Carmel (17-1) never found the offensive rhythm that led it to an undefeated start and the Pekin Holiday Tournament title.
“Beating an undefeated team in January is a huge deal,” Monroe said. “Mount Carmel is a fantastic team. Those kids are really talented.”
Craig finished with 24 points and five rebounds. But he was as cold as his teammates from outside, going only 1-for-11 from three-point range.
“We have to come out stronger at the start,” Craig said. “We were sluggish.”
St. Ignatius led 39-21 at halftime. Mount Carmel made a couple of threes early in the third quarter, but the Wolfpack never let up offensively.
St. Ignatius has been playing with a chip on its shoulder. The Wolfpack were ranked No. 4 in the preseason but haven’t been in the Super 25 since early December.
“The chip on our shoulder is never going away,” Gilles said. “Every single one of those losses is sticking with me the rest of the season. I don’t care if we win out and make it all the way to where we want to go. I’m always going to have that chip on my shoulder.”
The Caravan play at Providence on Monday, then have a long trip down to Jacksonville, Illinois, to play in The Bowl, one of the state’s most unique gyms.
“It’s great to have a chance to go Downstate and get away for a while,” Segroves said. “It’s going to be a great way for us to get back on a winning streak.”