CARMICHAELS – The Carmichaels girls basketball team might not have won the program’s first section title since 2003 Thursday night, but the Mikes’ 48-45 win over Avella did disprove the theory that they are solely The Morgan Berardi Show.
There was plenty of praise to go around after Carmichaels forged a tie for first place in Section 3-A and avenged a 58-51 loss at Avella on Jan. 10.
Start with Caroline Cree, who hit five three-pointers to finish with 15 points, while also adding four blocks and six rebounds – as a guard, no less.
Or center Amanda Brown, who was saddled with four fouls early but made a key block on Avella’s Julia Carlisle with 9.8 seconds left, then stole the inbounds pass to seal it.
Or Rachel Rankin and Mariah Hathaway, who combined for 13 points on a night where Berardi was held to 11, more than seven points below her season average.
“I was really proud with how we played as a team,” Carmichaels coach Jim Lane said.
The contributions came from many sources, though with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Carmichaels on the verge of squandering a 10-point lead, it was Berardi who knocked down two free throws to stop a 9-0 Avella run.
“I knew I had to make them,” said Berardi, who finished with seven assists and two blocks. “Everybody just kept telling me to think of it like practice.”
The win helped Carmichaels improve to 7-1, 17-2, with section games against Jefferson-Morgan and Mapletown remaining. Avella falls to 7-1, 11-7 and has California and West Greene the rest of the way.
Avella trailed by 10 following a jumper from Brown (seven points) at 5:09 of the fourth quarter, but Carlisle sank a three-pointer and banked in a jumper. Olivia English scored on a putback, and Carlisle made a jumper from the right wing to make it 46-45 before Berardi was fouled.
Brown prevented the Eagles from getting any quality looks with her defense down the stretch.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Avella coach Jim Matalik said. “We were down 10 points a couple different times. Came back to within one twice. Just ran out of offense at the end.”
Carlisle led Avella with 12 points. Kenna Drazich had 11, and English, despite missing a good portion of the game with foul trouble, had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Carmichaels opened with an 8-2 run behind two three-pointers from Cree, but Avella answered with an 8-1 spurt of its own, taking a 10-9 lead on a jumper that English banked in at 3:02.
Avella had a 17-16 lead after the first quarter, though the Eagles’ shots stopped falling, and they made just one field goal in the second period.
Carmichaels took advantage and scored 12 of the first 13 points of the second to pull in front, 28-18, after a layup from Amanda Brown, who was called for four fouls in the first half.
Five different players contributed baskets for Carmichaels during the stretch, and Cree made four of her three-pointers in the first half.
“I knew I was on, so I just kept shooting and trying to help my team,” Cree said.
Drazich was fouled on a half-court heave at the buzzer and made two of three foul shots, cutting the deficit to nine at 33-24.
The lead stayed between five and nine throughout the third, despite six points from Drazich, before the fourth quarter drama unfolded.
“At the beginning of the year, some of our other players weren’t really confident in themselves,” Berardi said. “But we’ve been getting so much better at that. Now it’s not just one person or two people. It’s everybody.”