Tears are to be expected at the end of a dream season.
The Mount Carmel girls’ tears Friday night were just as likely caused by the nightmarish way their season ended than the fact it had.
The Red Tornadoes scored by far their fewest points of the season, and had even fewer answers for a Dunmore team that seized control with a phenomenal run that bridged the halves.
The District 2 champion Bucks made it so that a team which always found a way to win couldn’t find a way to stop them, winning the Class AA state quarterfinal at Hazleton’s McGeehan Gym, 58-21.
“They’re a fantastic team,” said Mount Carmel senior Paige Hornung. “We knew coming into this it wasn’t going to be easy, but tonight was just not our night.”
After a bit of a slow start, the Red Tornadoes did what they’ve done all season, battling back to take a 15-14 lead when Hornung drilled a 3-pointer with 5:42 showing in the second quarter.
From that point, Dunmore closed the half with a 17-1 spurt and extended that run to an unfathomable 41-3 before Hornung buried another triple with 5 minutes left in the game.
The Red Tornadoes (25-5) made just two second-half field goals, and more than a quarter’s time elapsed before each one.
“It was a tough matchup for us,” said Mount Carmel coach Lisa Varano. “They’re a really well-balanced team. Everything they did right, went the right way, and they were tough for us to defend. All the credit goes to them.”
Dunmore (27-2) advanced to Tuesday’s state semifinals against District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti (28-0), a 64-29 winner over District 1 champ St. Basil.
The Bucks were billed as a team that averaged 5-plus made 3-pointers a game and had two guards among their top three scorers. However, from the start Friday, when they had three offensive rebounds on their first possession, it was clear 5-foot-10 forwards Mariah Maciejewski and Jill Korgeski would be a handful.
The big-bodied duo combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds, most of that in the first half when Dunmore forged a 31-16 lead. Maciejewski had eight of her 15 points in the first quarter, while Korgeski scored nine of her 13 in the second.
“They were just hard for us underneath to contain,” said Varano. “The girls tried. I give them a lot of credit; they did everything they could. (Korgeski and Maciejewski) held their ground.
“We couldn’t really front them; we couldn’t play behind them. If you double-down, they’re going to bury you from the outside.”
Maciejewski and Korgeski caught the entry pass extremely well, and finished with ease. If they couldn’t grab a rebound initially, they were able to keep it alive until they could. They presented a far more difficult challenge than Salisbury’s 6-3 Meagen Eripret in the second round, and she went for 28 points and 14 rebounds.
“We knew one person we could handle,” said Hornung, “but when they had two people — each just as good as the other — it’s hard to match up.”
The Red Tornadoes shot just 5-for-28 in the first half, and they came out of the locker room to see Dunmore shoot 7-for-9 (4-of-6 from 3-point range) in the third for a 51-18 lead. Bucks freshman Maddie Martin made three treys in the period.
“Dunmore had a little bit of everything; they had their bigs, and then they had the guards who were amazing, too,” said Mount Carmel senior Ali Varano, who had team-highs of nine points and seven rebounds. “We couldn’t just focus on one thing. They were just well-balanced.”
Maybe the Red Tornadoes were living on borrowed time, if not when a three-year starter quit after one game, then certainly with one postseason nail-biter after another. Still, they matched the 2011-12 team for deepest postseason run in program history, won a fourth consecutive district championship, added another division title and claimed the HAC Tournament crown.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Lisa Varano. “I think everybody thought this was the year to beat Mount Carmel. ... But they found a way to win. The heart and soul these girls exemplefied throughout the year ... they brought a lot of pride to our school.”
Tears are to be expected at the end of a dream season.
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