By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
MOUNT CARMEL —
There’s one simple reason why Mount Camel will be locking horns with Heartland Conference rival Montoursville for the third time this season, and it’s why South Williamsport’s campaign ended Friday in the opening round of the District 4 Class AA playoffs with a loud “thud.”
The top-seeded Lady Red Tornadoes put on a clinic against the Lady Mounties, and it wasn’t pretty for the losers.
Taking advantage of its obvious quickness out front, Mount Carmel parlayed consecutive turnovers and baskets by Ali Varano plus a huge three-pointer by Paige Hornung to highlight a 13-3 run late in the first half to break open a close contest en route to downing South Williamsport 66-39 and setting the stage for what should be a great matchup against the Lady Warriors, who rallied in the final quarter to down Wyalusing, 61-45.
South Williamsport trailed 20-11 before Jennifer Jackson collected three points and Liz Cummings converted one of two foul shots to trim the deficit to five points, 20-15.
That would be the last hurrah for the visitors.
The Red Tornadoes’ pressure defense, led by Paige Hornung, Jennifer Bolick and Ali Varano, along with MCA’s “freshman mighty might” 5-0 Maura Fiamoncini, terrorized the Mounties into back-to-back-to-back miscues that energized the home team’s offensive attack and allowed Mount Carmel to turn what was a competitive game into a rout.
“South Williamsport hurt us early in the game on the baseline with Jackson, and it may have been our lack of recognizing what they were trying to do against us,” Red Tornadoes coach Lisa Varano said. “Once we began to successfully pressure their guards, the turnovers started to come, and more importantly, we began to convert those mistakes into points that gave us some breathing room.”
The Lady Mounties found themselves trailing 33-20 at the break, not because of missed shots, but because they had turned the ball over 24 times in the opening half.
“We knew coming into the game we had to prevent Mount Carmel’s defense from dictating the tempo of the game and we had to protect the basketball,” Lady Mounties coach Mike Allison said. “Our players were aware how dangerous they were, whether it was in a half-court or full-court game, and unfortunately the pressure got to us.”
Mount Carmel led 12-9 after one period but then got rolling behind Varano’s 11 points and a five-point contribution off the bench from Fiamoncini. They took a 33-20 advantage into the locker room.
The Red Tornadoes opened the second half with a 14-5 run that all but sealed the Lady Mounties’ fate, as Varano contributed six while Bolick added a steal and basket; the team’s depth off the bench reared its head as Alison Parker chipped in with four points and a trio of rebounds.
Varano led the winners with 22 points while Bolick added 10 points and Fiamoncini not only pitched in with 10 points, but also grabbed nine rebounds.
MCA’s defense forced 42 turnovers.
“Our strength is with the press and the outstanding play of our guards,” Varano said. “We knew South was bigger than us inside and preventing their guards from getting the ball where they could hurt us was huge.”
Jackson was the lone South player in double figures with 22 points; she also helped the cause with a game-high 19 rebounds.