The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 13, 2014

Girls basketball: Mount Carmel prepares for state quarterfinals

HAZLETON — For being the tallest player on a state quarterfinal team, Brianna Lutz is often overlooked.

The 5-foot-9 senior toils in the middle for Mount Carmel, far from the transition baskets and 3-pointers that ignite the crowd.

A first-year starter, Lutz made perhaps the biggest play of the Red Tornadoes’ season late in Tuesday’s PIAA Class AA second-round game against Salisbury.

The District 11 runner-up Falcons had whittled a 16-point deficit to a single point. They had all the momentum and a golden opportunity with less than a minute to play when Mount Carmel — now up three — threw away an inbound pass under its basket.

Salisbury worked the ball low to Holly Szita, but her point-blank shot was rejected by Lutz. She then grabbed the ball, passed to Izzy Stellar on the wing, and Stellar pushed it ahead to Ali Varano for a 59-54 lead.

It was Lutz’s second block of the quarter but, by far, the most important of her career.

“I thought it was going to be my fifth foul and I thought we were done,” Lutz said of her block. “I was, like, ‘Holy crap, I just lost the game.’ I’m glad it was a block and not a foul.”

Lutz has emerged as a key contributor in the postseason, less overlooked with each passing game in the Red Tornadoes’ eight-game win streak.

Mount Carmel (25-4) plays District 2 champion Dunmore at 7:30 tonight at Hazleton H.S. It is the Red Tornadoes’ second state quarterfinal appearance in three years.

The Bucks (26-2) have won 16 consecutive games, including their seventh district title in eight seasons. They are led by 5-10 junior center Mariah Maciejewski, who averages 12.4 points, and junior guard Kayleigh Semion (11.7). Freshman point guard Maddie Martin scores 10.5 per game, and 5-10 junior Jill Korgeski brings more size to the floor.

The Tornadoes had their hands full with Salisbury’s 6-3 junior Meagen Eripret, who posted 28 points and 17 rebounds despite facing a bracket defense and occasional help of a triple team. Lutz formed the back of the bracket with guard Paige Hornung fronting Eripret, and the strategy worked in the sense that Eripret had no more than four shots in any quarter.

“We only had two days to prepare for this game, so what we really worked on in practice was what defense we were going to play on her,” said Lutz. “We figured having one behind her and one in front was the best way to do it. We knew she was tough, but we figured if we were in there with her she was going to bump us back if we bumped her. I considered it us beating her up, really.”

Lutz’s best game in the Red Tornadoes’ late-season run was the district final, when she scored seven points (on 3-of-4 shooting) and pulled down five rebounds in a two-point win over Central Columbia.

She has done her part to fill the void left by 5-9 senior Ana Raybuck, a three-year starter who left the team after one game.

Lutz, an honor student who plans to join the U.S. Air Force, also plays soccer and competes on the track team.

“I’ve never been more grateful,” she said after Tuesday’s win. “Starting on this team and going into the state quarterfinals now, it’s a feeling I can’t describe.”

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