CARMICHAELS – Turns out the Carmichaels girls basketball team is more than just 1,000-point scorer Morgan Berardi.
And given how Monday night’s Section 3-A game against California transpired, with the Mikes missing 13 of 22 free throws and Berardi held roughly seven points below her season average, clutch performances from Caroline Cree and Amanda Brown turned out to be rather timely, too.
Brown scored a team-high 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds, Cree added nine and Berardi found success in spurts en route to a 12-point night, as Carmichaels stretched its winning streak to 10 with a 46-38 home victory over the Trojans.
“I think we were all off today,” Brown said. “We all work together, and we’re a well-oiled machine. If one of us is off, we have to pull them up.”
Berardi wasn’t exactly off, at least not from the floor, but she did make just four of 12 free throws.
“Foul line, yeah, that was pretty bad,” Berardi said.
“I should probably practice that a little bit. I’m usually pretty good at free throws. I think we were nervous.”
Nervous, perhaps, because this was a matchup of undefeated-in-section, 9-1 teams. A matchup that Carmichaels (2-0, 10-1) won despite allowing California’s Courtnee McMasters to score 22 points.
Fortunately for the Mikes, nobody else had more than four.
“We just keyed on Berardi and said that the other people have to beat us,” California coach Chris Minerd said. “For the most part, I think we held them in check. We just didn’t score enough on our end.
“We never got it going on offense. We forced up too many bad shots. In the end, we kind of chipped away, but it was too little too late.”
The Trojans trailed by eight at the start of the fourth quarter following a layup from Natalie Baron, but Carmichaels responded with a layup from Brown off a gorgeous feed from Cree and a jumper from Berardi.
Carmichaels’ lead would never shrink below eight.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Carmichaels coach Jim Lane said. “They knew the importance of this game. This was a pretty big step for them. Big section win.”
Carmichaels had a 9-5 lead after a slow first quarter that featured nine fouls and 12 turnovers, the highlight being Berardi’s scooping layup to give the Mikes a 6-5 lead at 1:07.
The Mikes stretched their lead to eight during an 11-4 run that covered less than three minutes midway through the second quarter, as Berardi converted a pair of layups and Cree finished a Trojans turnover for six quick points.
McMasters, who also had 13 rebounds, scored on a layup for California and made another free throw to keep the Mikes’ lead at eight, 25-17, entering halftime.
McMasters cut the lead to seven midway through the third, though the Trojans, who ran a triangle-and-two zone for most of the game, could never make that one final push.
Carmichaels’ Mallory Stajnrajh finished with four points and eight rebounds. So, too, did Rachel Rankin.
“They were doing some special things on defense to try and hold down our top scorers,” Lane said. “But I was proud of how my players were able to fight through it. We got some big points from some of our role players, and we were able to swing it in our direction.”