Boys basketball: Crete-Monee’s late push enough to topple Mount CarmelMount Carmel's Alex Austin (35) goes in for a layup, at Monday's game between Mount Carmel and Crete-Monee, hosted at Joliet Central High School. | Paul James Bergstrom~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 16, 2012 8:41PM
Crete-Monee has had a tendency to start slow and finish games with a flourish.
It’s a recipe that has cost it a few games in the victory column.
On Monday against Mount Carmel, the No. 18 Warriors were up to their old tricks, needing a strong finish to claim a 52-46 victory at the Martin Luther King Day of Hoops Tournament at Joliet Central.
Crete-Monee (12-4) outscored the Caravan (5-12) 16-7 in the final frame.
“We seem to play harder at the end of games,” Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel conceded. “I don’t know if it’s a sense of desperation. The kids played their hearts out.”
When Alex Austin drilled a three-pointer at the 5:41 mark of the fourth, the Caravan led 42-38 and appeared ready to take control.
Crete-Monee, however, came right back with a 12-4 run to take a 50-44 lead with 1:11 to go.
Marius Hopkins hit a big three to ignite the run, Marvie Keith (13 points) and LaQuon Treadwell (10 points) added buckets and Mark Conner converted a pair of free throws.
“We’ve got to get stronger and more physical,” Mount Carmel coach Mike Flaherty said. “They just wore us out.”
Mount Carmel led 28-24 at the half behind 24 combined points from Austin, who finished with 20 points, and Anthony Grassano (14).
“We rely a lot on Alex to produce offensively,” Flaherty said. “Anthony stepped up. But we’ve had some trouble taking care of the ball.”
Turnovers proved to be the Caravan’s undoing down the stretch.
Michael Orris added 10 points for the Warriors, who shot 7-of-13 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Their struggles from the charity stripe allowed the Caravan to remain within striking distance — 51-46 with 26.9 seconds left — down the stretch.
“It would have been easier if we were more effective down the stretch at the free-throw line,” Cappel said. “But overall we’re starting to catch on to what we need to do.”