MOUNT CARMEL — Emily Garvin was forced to sit and watch as Mount Carmel erased Northumberland Christian's first-half lead, shackled to the Warriors' bench by foul trouble.
Worse was that she had herself to blame. After throwing away the ball under the Red Tornadoes' basket, she dove headlong into a player trying to wrestle it back for her third foul.
So accustomed to doing a whole lot of everything for her team, the all-state junior blended into the team effort that carried Northumberland Christian to its 22nd consecutive win Monday.
The Warriors collectively slowed Mount Carmel all-state center Dani Rae Renno in the second half, and gutted out a 55-54 victory in an intense battle of defending district champions.
"I'm proud of the girls because we came out to a big lead, and then they gave us a punch in the gut in the second quarter," said Northumberland Christian coach Dan Severn. "The girls didn't give up. They just got right back in it. Boy, they did a great job."
Garvin had a team-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kaitlyn Bookwalter and fellow senior Rebekah Hayner added 15 and 13 points, respectively, in the win.
The 6-foot-2 Renno led all scorers with 23 points, just off her 25.7 average through the season's first three games. She scored 17 points in the middle quarters as Mount Carmel turned an early 15-7 deficit into a halftime lead that traded hands the rest of the way.
Renno's looks were few and far between in the fourth quarter, though. She was limited to an offensive rebound that she turned into two made free throws and the finish of a Caroline Fletcher dish that had been deadly in the third.
"That was a problem," said Red Tornadoes coach Lisa Varano. "They did a nice job pressuring our guards, and when we finally did get it to a position where we could make an entry pass they (double-teamed) her."
Renno made the right play on her final touch, kicking the ball from the middle of the lane to Lauren Shedleski high on the right wing for a 3-pointer that tied the score at 54 with just less than 15 seconds to play. Mount Carmel committed a foul in the backcourt with 6.8 seconds showing, which sent Hayner to the line for two shots. She made the second one, and the Red Tornadoes were unable to control a pass from midcourt under the basket for a last shot.
"It took a lot of hard work," Garvin said of the win. "I was definitely very tired after the first quarter."
The two teams played the Valley's final games of the 2019-20 season, second-round state playoff contests less than 24 hours apart at Bellefonte H.S. The season was ended for all teams several days later by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Northumberland Christian attacked Monday's nonleague game as though it was a state quarterfinal, racing to an 11-2 lead after five minutes as Mount Carmel opened 1-of-10 with three turnovers. The Warriors' ball movement was exceptional, with Garvin passing three assists, and Bookwalter and Hayner dishing one apiece on six made field goals. Garvin and Bookwalter drove hard early to establish dribble-penetration.
"When I took it to (Renno) and it went in, I was like, 'OK — I can hang with her,'" said Bookwalter.
The Warriors (5-0) led 21-10 after Hayner made the first of two second-quarter 3-pointers with about five minutes to play in the half. The Red Tornadoes (3-1) closed with a 19-5 run, scoring on seven straight trips, to go ahead 29-26 at the half. Northumberland was scoreless for the final 2:59, including the 2:20 Garvin sat with three fouls.
Renno scored seven points in the spree; Shedleski had five; and sophomore Jenna Pizzoli hit her fifth 3-pointer in four games to break a 26-all tie.
Garvin found Bookwalter for a game-tying three-point play to open the second half, and the teams went about trading buckets until quarter's end when Mount Carmel led 40-38. Renno made three of four shots in the third quarter, but she went more than nine minutes between looks until late in the fourth.
"It was all of our bigs," said Garvin. "They did a great job against her."
Bookwalter and 6-1 twins Anna and Emma Ulmer were strong in bracketing Renno and forcing the Red Tornadoes to look elsewhere for offense. They shot 6-for-14 in the fourth.
"She's a really, really athletic player and taller than most girls, obviously, so we knew she was going to be strong under the basket," said the 5-10 Bookwalter. "We basically figured out we had to front her and work as a team — one person in the back, one person in the front — and try to shut her down."
Hayner scored consecutive buckets to push the Warriors in front 48-42 with four minutes left. Mount Carmel made another to pull within 52-51 with 1:40 to go, but the Red Tornadoes missed a pair of shots (both 3s) and a free throw before Shedleski's tying 3.
"(The Warriors) were very disciplined; they didn't panic; and they came back," said Varano. "I thought they did a real nice job."
NORTHUMBERLAND CHRISTIAN 55, MOUNT CARMEL 54
Northumberland Christian (5-0) 55
Rebekah Hayner 5 1-2 13, Kaitlyn Bookwalter 7 1-1 15, Emily Garvin 6 4-8 16, Anna Ulmer 2 0-0 4, Emma Ulmer 3 1-2 7, Emma Daku-Treas 0 0-1 0. Totals 23 7-14 55.
3-point goals: Hayner 2.
Did not score: None.
Mount Carmel (3-1) 54
Lauren Ayres 2 0-0 5, Mia Chapman 4 1-2 9, Caroline Fletcher 1 0-0 2, Lauren Shedleski 4 0-0 10, Dani Rae Renno 9 5-8 23, Alyssa Reisinger 1 0-0 2, Jenna Pizzoli 1 0-0 3. Totals 22 6-10 54.
3-point goals: Shedleski 2, Ayres, Pizzoli.
Did not score: Katie Witkoski, Rachel Witkoski.
Score by quarters
Northumberland Chr.`15`11`14`15 — 55
Mount Carmel`7`22`9`16 — 54