The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

February 26, 2014

Girls basketball: Red Tornadoes finally get past Montoursville to advance to district final

DANVILLE — Mount Carmel’s relentless, swarming defense was good to the last stop in Wednesday’s District 4 Class AA semifinal.

The Red Tornadoes missed a free throw while ahead by two with nine seconds left. However, they surrounded Montoursville’s Kirsten O’Malley on a long rebound to the corner and prevented the Warriors from getting upcourt before time expired.

That same in-your-jersey defense hounded Montoursville into 30 percent shooting and 20 turnovers over the course of Mount Carmel’s 42-40 win at the Whitey McCloskey Center at Danville.

“There’s nothing better than seeing a team be frustrated because we’re playing great defense,” said Mount Carmel junior Jen Bolick. “There’s nothing better than that.”

The Red Tornadoes avenged two regular-season losses to Montoursville (their only losses in 2014) and earned a shot at a fourth consecutive District 4 Class AA championship.

“I think the girls wanted to come out to prove something,” said Tornadoes coach Lisa Varano, who earned her 94th win in four seasons. “They didn’t want to play for third place. They wanted to prove that they could beat (the Warriors).”

The top-seeded Tornadoes (22-4) play No. 6 Central Columbia in the title game Saturday. Montoursville (15-9), the fifth seed, faces second-seeded Warrior Run in the district consolation game.

The Warriors trailed 42-35 with a little more than a minute to play when Kelsey Stine scored inside. After a Mount Carmel turnover, McKenzie Ruffing hit her second 3-pointer of the quarter (and third of the game) to make it 42-40 with 29 seconds left.

Mount Carmel threw away the inbounds pass, but Ruffing missed a shot underneath and Lexi Marchioni missed a go-ahead three that was rebounded by the Tornadoes’ Allison Parker with nine seconds to play.

“They gave themselves an opportunity to tie the score,” said Warriors coach Kevin Kurtz. “There were just a couple missed shots in the last couple seconds.”

Montoursville led 5-0 out of the gate before Mount Carmel stormed back for a 7-5 edge with consecutive Ali Varano steals. The Mount Carmel senior finished with a game-high 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

Paige Hornung, another Tornadoes senior, had a 3-pointer and steal that led to a Bolick basket and a 21-12 lead. Montoursville started the second quarter 1-for-7 but closed with a 7-2 run to pull within 23-19 at the half.

Mount Carmel’s offensive struggles (4-of-17 in the second quarter) extended through halftime. The Tornadoes shot just 2-of-12 in the third quarter as Montour got within 30-28.

“It’s obviously frustrating when you can’t score, but we’ve learned to be very patient with our shots and we ended up doing just fine,” said Bolick. “Eventually our shots started to fall, we got to the foul line a few times, and we got our rebounds like we were supposed to.

“And when our offense isn’t working we just have to hustle more on defense.”

Bolick (9 points, 6 boards) scored to open the fourth, and Varano took a long rebound the distance and followed with a layup in traffic for a 36-28 lead. The guards combined for 11 fourth-quarter points.

The Warriors were 4-for-12 in the fourth with only Ruffing’s pair of 3s keeping them within striking distance. They were within five when an intentional foul gave Mount Carmel two points on free throws for a 42-35 lead.

“We sometimes are lacking some size, but if you go after a team defensively you can frustrate them,” said Lisa Varano. “Montoursville’s an awesome team — they’re very athletic — but I think we wore on them a little. You could see that they were getting frustrated.”

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