There is no messing around with a seven-game series in high school basketball playoffs. It’s a one-and-done format, so the end can come at any time.
“Honestly, I was stressing all day,” Carmel senior Bryce Moore said. “Not really because of nerves. I’ve been in big games before. But just knowing that this game could have been my last game ever. . . . I didn’t want that to happen. And obviously, I didn’t let that happen.”
That pressure often brings out the best in talented seniors. That’s what happened Friday in Niles. Moore, a Niagara recruit, was spectacular in leading the Corsairs to a 65-48 victory against Notre Dame in a Class 3A -regional final.
“I was locked in from the start,” Moore said. “I knew what we had to do. I was feeling it at the start of the game.”
Moore had 29 points. He scored 20 in the first half, shooting 9-for-11 from the field.
“That’s the best game we’ve played all year,” Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. “Bryce carried us. Those shots he was hitting, he’s just a special kid. He’s a great leader and representative for the school.”
The first few minutes were a blur, with both teams turning the ball over multiple times in frantic play. But then Carmel settled down and took care of the ball the rest of the way, finishing with only seven turnovers.
“We talked about composure,” Ryan said. “We had to stay connected on the court and have good communication because this is a tough place to play. The crowd got to us the first couple of times.”
The Corsairs (23-10) took control in the third quarter, limiting Notre Dame (18-15) to four points and building a 40-27 lead.
Senior guard Asher Jackson added 20 points and eight rebounds for Carmel. He scored 11 in the fourth quarter to help quell any Notre Dame hopes of a comeback.
“I knew they were keying hard on [Moore],” Jackson said. “Their original plan was to key on me because I played well against them the last two times. But [Moore] was outstanding. Some of the shots he hit were just, wow.”
Jackson and Moore have been playing together since eighth grade.
“We’ve bonded, and we play well together,” Moore said. “That’s my guy; I love him.”
Notre Dame had beaten the Corsairs twice this season, including a 49-45 win Feb. 6 in the East Suburban Catholic conference tournament.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be hard to beat us three times,” Jackson said. “I told everyone on our team that I wanted to beat them by 20 because I knew we could do it.”
Junior Sonny Williams led Notre Dame with 21 points. The Dons are young, starting only one senior.
“The conference tournament helped us with this,” Ryan said. “Every game is a fistfight. The kids are physical and play hard with a lot of emotion.”
Carmel will face St. Patrick, a 54-47 winner against Vernon Hills, in the North Chicago Sectional semifinals Wednesday.
“We’ve come a long way this season,” Moore said. “No one knew who we were back in November, and now we’re getting our names out there. It was bound to happen because we’re a good team.”