After losing a close game to Warren Easton in December, Mount Carmel girls basketball coach Jamie Thomatis knew her team needed to get better on defense.

Thomatis might not have known that change would come as quickly as it has, though.

The Cubs (18-5) used stout defense to suffocate Easton and pull away late to win 43-27 in a nondistrict game at home on Wednesday night, extending the team’s win streak to eight games.

It was the second time the defending Class 4A state champions fell to Mount Carmel in the past week, and the Cubs held Easton to single-digit scoring in five of the past six quarters they’ve played.

“It’s not a profound secret, we’re just trying to play smart,” Thomatis said. “We’re a work in progress, but the girls have really bought in and they’re playing really hard.”

The last time Mount Carmel lost was in a December matchup against Easton (12-9), but since then the Cubs have held opponents to an average of 43.3 points per game, including holding teams to less than 40 points the past five games.

Cubs forward Lauren Bodino, who finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds, said the major difference has been the team finally meshing together under first-year coach Thomatis.

“When coach came in, defense was the first thing she emphasized,” Bodino said. “We know we’re known as an offensive team, but we’re trying to change that and be an all-around team.”

After holding Easton to seven points in the second half during the last meeting between the two schools in the championship of the Sugar Bowl Prep Classic, Mount Carmel’s defense picked up right where it left off to start Wednesday’s game.

The Eagles only managed to shoot 2-of-12 from the field in the first quarter as the Cubs raced out to a 10-4 lead, but Easton eventually settled down and crept its way back into things.

Mount Carmel’s deficit shrunk to 12-11 midway through the second, but the Cubs closed the period with an 8-2 run that ended with a layup by Ellie Holzman right before the buzzer that gave her team a 21-13 lead going into halftime.

Holzman ended the night with six points, 11 rebounds and six blocks.

“It’s our first year together, so we’ve really had to work on it,” Bodino said of Holzman. “We stay after practice a lot to work on our high-low game, because we know if we can score out of that, it’ll be hard to stop.”

Megan Donaldson opened the second half with a 3-pointer that gave Mount Carmel its first double-digit lead of the game and it would hold on to that double-digit lead the rest of the way.

The Cubs outscored Easton 13-2 to open the third quarter, extending its lead to 34-15, and the Eagles couldn’t shrink its deficit to any smaller than 12 points the rest of the way.

Easton guards Kechelle Figueroa and Nikole Harmon tied for the team-high with eight points each.

“We don’t play with passion and it feels like we just have the championship hangover,” Easton coach Darius Mimms said. “Last year we had shooters, so a lot of the times we could come back when we dug ourselves a hole, but we don’t have that luxury this year.”