By Mike Schoeffel
The stage was set: Carmel School was tied with Steward, 42-42, in the championship game of the Trinity Christian Christmas Tournament on Dec. 29.
That’s when Carmel’s Kenari Jones took the Wildcats’ fate into his own hands.
The sophomore phenom gracefully swiped the ball from an opponent and flicked in the game-winning lay-up, giving the Wildcats a riveting first-place finish. Jones, who was named to the all-tournament team, finished the game with a team-high 19 points. He averaged 20 points per game throughout the tournament.
Carmel won all four of its games over a two-day span to improve to 6-3 on the season. The impressive showing could not have come at a better time for the Wildcats, who entered the tournament on a three-game losing streak.
“It was one of the most amazing tournaments I’ve been in during my high school coaching career,” said Campbell. “It was tremendous in terms of building that desire and doing whatever it takes to win.”
Carmel, which is playing its first varsity season in four years, defeated host Trinity Christian, 62-51, earlier in the day to advance to the championship. Jones led the scoring in that game, as well, finishing with 26 points and seven steals. Junior Tanner Hatchett added 19 points, while sophomore Josh Campbell posted a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds).
“They’re a solid, well-coached team,” said Campbell. “It’s always hard to beat the host team on its home floor, but we were able to pull it off.”
The Wildcats dominated the first two games of the tournament on Dec. 28, defeating Loudoun County Homeschool, 70-44, in the first round and The Heights (Maryland), 71-53, in the second round. Campbell stole the show in those two games. Against Loudoun County Homeschool, he scored 20 points and snagged eight rebounds. He tallied 29 points and 10 rebounds against The Heights.
Carmel’s game at Veritas School on Jan. 5 was cancelled due to snow. The Wildcats were scheduled to travel to Amelia Academy on Jan. 10 and will return home against New Community School on Jan. 12. It will be Carmel’s first home game since Dec. 7, when it fell to defending VISAA Division III champion, Williamsburg Christian.
The Wildcats finish out the week with a road game against Division I Benedictine on Jan. 13.