The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 7, 2014

Girls basketball: Mount Carmel prevails behind big fourth quarter

SUNBURY — To hear her mother explain it, Ali Varano hates to lose more than she wants to win. That’s just how the Mount Carmel senior is wired.

You might think that slight difference in motivation would be difficult to distinguish on the court, but with Varano it isn’t.

In situations such as Friday’s state playoff opener, when her Red Tornadoes trailed Montrose for the better part of three quarters, Varano didn’t play with a frenetic desperation to win. She played with a relentless determination to avoid losing.

Mount Carmel’s senior star scored nine fourth-quarter points and sparked the sudden, tide-turning run that vaulted the Red Tornadoes to a decisive 43-33 win at Shikellamy.

“She just sees it slipping

away, and that’s just her mentality,” said Mount Carmel coach (and Ali’s mother) Lisa Varano. “I think she’s not ready to have her season end yet.”

The Red Tornadoes were behind 30-26 entering the final quarter when Varano knocked down a 3-pointer, just her third of the season. Three head-shaking minutes later, Jen Bolick drilled a triple to cap Mount Carmel’s 13-2 run.

“I thought it was meant to happen,” Bolick said of the unexpected spurt. “I believe in my team and I knew that something like that was going to happen because we always work so hard. We never, ever give up, and we never will.”

A seven-point lead with four minutes to play could have been tenuous, especially with the Tornadoes making just four of 10 free throws the rest of the way. But they limited Montrose to 1-of-7 shooting and forced nine of the Meteors’ 34 turnovers in the period, including an 0-for-3 clip and six turnovers in those final four minutes.

“They’ve been winning with defense all year long,” said Lisa Varano. “That’s what got them back in the game.”

Mount Carmel is 4-2 in state playoff games over the last three seasons. The four-time District 4-AA champion (24-4) plays District 11 runner-up Salisbury Township (a 57-56 winner over District 12 runner-up Imhotep Charter) in the second round Tuesday.

“I just keep thinking about how far we’re going to get, what more we can accomplish,” said Bolick, “because we’re proving a lot.”

For the third time in as many games, the Tornadoes battled to stay close in the second half. However, unlike the two-point district semifinal and final wins, they landed a knockout punch with that three-minute run.

Mount Carmel shot just 2-for-15 in the third quarter and was unable to take advantage of eight Montrose turnovers. So a 22-all halftime tie was nudged in the Meteors’ favor, 30-26, after three periods.

Two possessions into the fourth, Ali Varano popped a 3 from in front of the Tornadoes’ bench on the left wing. On the next trip, she drove to the hoop and was fouled, making both shots for Mount Carmel’s first lead since the 6:05 mark of the second quarter.

Brianna Lutz followed the only Montrose bucket of the run with a turnaround jumper, and Bolick was fouled on an offensive board and added a point from the line to make it 34-32. Then Ali Varano bolted ahead of the pack with a long rebound for a layup just ahead of Bolick’s trey.

Ali Varano had 13 of her game-high 21 points and eight of her game-high 10 rebounds after halftime (nine points, three boards in the fourth).

“This would have been my last game — all the seniors’ last game — and we knew we had to pick it up,” Ali Varano said. “Things weren’t going our way for a while, so we knew we had to get every single ball we could and make something good happen.”

Isabella Stellar had seven points and four steals, while Bolick added six points and five rebounds. Tornadoes freshman Maura Fiamoncini had four points and five steals.

Mount Carmel was outrebounded by seven in the first half, but even on the glass after halftime. They limited Montrose (20-6) to just one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.

“We knew we had to get after it,” said Lisa Varano. “If we didn’t, they were going to get some second-chance points.

“We tend to do that sometimes — we stand around and watch the ball instead of going after it. Once we started to go after it, it evened out.”

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