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PEKIN — The La Salle-Peru boys basketball team had its chances.
After allowing the game’s first eight points to Mt. Carmel in Thursday’s opener at the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, the Cavaliers played from behind the entire game but still had multiple chances to take the lead, including four opportunities in the final 2 1/2 minutes and twice in the final 25 seconds.
However, L-P was unable to convert on any of its opportunities and fell to Mt. Carmel 57-53.
“I thought we competed well, but we just couldn’t get over the hump,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said. “It seemed like every time we’d cut it to two, they’d hit a 3(-pointer), or if we cut it to 3, they’d hit a 3. We just couldn’t get over the hump to tie it up or take the lead.”
With the defeat in the bracketed-tournament, the Cavaliers (6-3) will play at 2:15 p.m. today against No. 2-seeded Rockford Boylan (8-2), which played without three of its best players Thursday and was upset by Morton.
If it wins, L-P plays at 8 p.m. against the winner of Freeport and Hersey. With a loss, the Cavs will play the Freeport-Hersey loser at 9:30 p.m. before they finish the tournament with one game on Saturday.
Thursday’s defeat dropped L-P to 0-9 in the Pekin tournament in the last three years.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we want to get the win,” Soderholm said of Boylan. “We think we can get a win. We just have to play like we’re capable.” After a 12-day layoff and playing a game that started after 9:30 p.m., the Cavs struggled to begin Thursday’s game.
The Caravan (5-6) scored the game’s first eight points and built a 31-20 cushion at half.
Out of halftime, L-P turned up the defensive pressure to force Mt. Carmel to commit three turnovers to start the second half.
The Cavs took advantage as they went on a 10-0 run to pull to 31-30 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
However, the Caravan responded with a three-point play, a basket and two made free throws after a Cherveny technical foul.
Down seven in the fourth quarter, L-P crept closer.
Senior Cam Hight hit a 3-point shot and then made a fast-break layup to pull the Cavs to 46-44 with 4:30 left, but Mt. Carmel’s Gabriel Grant hit a 3-point shot.
Junior Noah Lamboley countered with a 3-pointer of his own, but Grant hit another 3-point shot to give Mt. Carmel a 52-47 lead with 2:50 remaining.
Down but not out, Soderholm converted a three-point play to pull L-P to 52-50 with 2:29 left.
With a chance to tie or take the lead, Hight missed a 3-point shot, but Soderholm grabbed the rebound but his putback near the hoop missed.
A three-point play by Mt. Carmel’s Devante Charles pushed the lead back to five, but after being fouled, Lamboley made three free throws to pull the Cavs to 55-53 with 36.5 seconds to go.
L-P opted to foul and Charles missed his bonus free throws to give the Cavs a chance with 25.9 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, Soderholm missed a 3-pointer, but senior Adam Happ grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 3.3 seconds remaining.
With one last chance, Happ’s inbounds pass was intercepted by Mt. Carmel’s Christian Searles, who made two free throws to seal the Caravan victory.
“We just couldn’t get an open look at the end,” Soderholm said. “They had good ball pressure, but we just couldn’t get a clean shot off. We had a couple of good looks, but couldn’t put them in.”
The Cavs shot 10-for-33 from beyond the 3-point line to end a four-game winning streak and suffer their first loss since the Cavalier Classic in November.
Lamboley scored 15 points for L-P, while Soderholm added 13 points and 17 rebounds.
Searles had a game-high 23 points for Mt. Carmel, which plays Morton in a quarterfinal at 2:15 p.m. today.
Notes: L-P senior and St. Bede transfer Jeremy Brolley made his season debut for the Cavs. He came off the bench and did not score. Senior Kyle Jenkins didn’t play with an illness.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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