LAWRENCEVILLE — Last year's Class 2A runner-up, Mount Carmel, advanced to its third straight sectional with a 51-49 win over Harrisburg at Lawrenceville Friday night. The Bulldogs had two chances in the final seconds for a potential game-tying layup, but neither would drop.
Dalton Lambert's free throw with 3.7 seconds to play brought Harrisburg to within two. The Bulldogs then forced a turnover on the Mount Carmel inbounds pass to give themselves an opportunity in the final seconds, but contested shots from Isaiah Saulsberry and Lambert rimmed off.
"Really the fact that we had a shot says a lot about this team," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "When we're down six with whatever time to go and then we fight back to have a shot at the buzzer to tie it up, I think it says something about how hard this team fights, how tough they are."
Blake Drue paced Harrisburg with 17 points while Saulsberry finished with 14.
Brayden Stipp had 13 points for the Golden Aces and University of Wyoming football recruit Jackson Marcotte added 11 points. Marcotte, who had missed most of the regular season with a knee injury, found himself in foul trouble for part of the evening, but still managed to be a big presence on both ends of the floor.
Stipp put Mount Carmel in front for the first time in the second half with a basket early in the fourth quarter and gave the Aces the momentum for most of the final period.
"A nip and tuck game, good times and bad times as we spoke about before the game ever started," said Smithpeters. "When you play a team that's as good as Mount Carmel, that's how it's going to be. At the three minute mark, I thought we had some defensive trips that probably hurt us, and really we didn't do anything wrong. It's just Mount Carmel did a good job of using their strengths."
Harrisburg took its first lead of the night in the final minute of the second quarter and was in front 26-25 at intermission.
The Bulldogs then opened the second half on a 7-0 run and led 33-25 just over three minutes into the second half.
"Probably the thing I was most proud of was our seniors were not going to let that thing slip away," said Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss. "When it got to eight points, there's been some years when you look at guy's eyes in the huddle and it didn't feel right, but tonight it was never a doubt. It was eight points, but let's chip away at this thing and go battle."
Harrisburg (23-8) dropped only two neutral site games all season, both to Mount Carmel, including a one-point loss at the Carmi Invitational in mid-January.
Harrisburg was making its eighth regional championship appearance in the past nine seasons. As for Mount Carmel, Buss is now unbeaten in five regional championship contests.
Mount Carmel (18-11) will meet Effingham St. Anthony Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Robinson. St. Anthony won the Class 1A state title a season ago.