By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
MOUNT CARMEL -- Southern Columbia had largely kept Paige Hornung in check in the first half.
Within three possessions in the third quarter, though, Hornung reversed her fortune and kick-started the rest of the Red Tornadoes, as the senior guard finished with six 3-pointers Saturday.
Led by Hornung's 18, Mount Carmel held off a tough Southern Columbia squad, 47-41, at Mount Carmel H.S.
With the win, Mount Carmel remained in first place in Heartland-II with a visit from second-place Warrior Run looming Tuesday evening.
"We have to take one game at a time, not look too far and take care of what we need to take care of," Mount Carmel coach Lisa Varano said.
The Red Tornadoes (14-3, 9-1 HAC-II) and the Tigers (12-7, 5-6) met for the second annual Coaches for Cancer Basketball Classic during which proceeds from in-game fundraisers were donated to the American Cancer Society.
The Tigers led by three, 27-24, in the third quarter before Hornung found her stroke. Finding an opening in the corner, Hornung drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game but she was far from finished.
Mount Carmel's next two possessions ended the same way as the tying possession with Hornung finding open space and connecting from deep, giving the Red Tornadoes a 33-27 lead.
"Paige hitting all those threes gave us big momentum and we just kind of kept going," senior Ali Varano said.
"I couldn't do it without the help of my team," Hornung added.
Mackenzie Chaundy answered with a jumper for the Tigers but once Hornung gave Mount Carmel the lead with her 3-point barrage, the Tigers were unable to pull closer than four points.
Both teams spent much of the first half diving for every loose ball, and that level of intensity did not drop in the second half with neither team willing to give an inch.
"It's a rivalry," Lisa Varano said. "(Southern) is tough."
After Hornung's 3-pointers, Jen Bolick sprinted into the passing lane, seemingly anticipating a pass before the ball was thrown, tipping it away and going in for an open layup.
Mount Carmel's lead held steady at a two-possession advantage before Hornung decided to wreak havoc from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. She hit her final two 3-pointers to help the Tornadoes stay in front despite the Tigers' best efforts.
Keeping the ball away from the Southern trap in the final two minutes, the Red Tornadoes milked the clock, with Ali Varano sealing the win by hitting four free throws.
Ali Varano's quick hands on defense led to a 22-all tie at halftime.
The Tigers took advantage of a Red Tornadoes' cold stretch early, jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter and leading 18-10 early in the second before Mount Carmel stormed back.