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Sesame Street's Elmo has taken a PR hit in recent weeks, but most toddlers who love the red, furry monster seem unfazed.
Three-year-old Owen Perz, for instance, is still a big Elmo fan, so he had to be loving the giant Elmo balloon that his mom Kelly brought home with her on Monday night.
Perz is the head girls basketball coach at Carmel, and the Elmo balloon was tied to a chair on her team's bench during its nonconference game at Lakes.
Elmo, along with a cookie cake, was a birthday gift from her players, who knew that the perfect gift for Perz was a gift for her young son.
"Well, my son is obsessed with Elmo and the girls are kind of obsessed with my son," Perz said with a laugh. "They got me an Elmo balloon for my birthday, but it's really for him. That was really nice."
The Corsairs also gave Perz a gift that was more just for her, a 52-44 win over Lakes that bumps their record to 6-2.
Unfortunately, though, Perz's gift wasn't quite wrapped up with a nice, tidy bow.
Carmel had built leads as big as 13 points in the fourth quarter. But Lakes put on a press that caused the Corsairs problems, and that set the stage for a significant rally. Twice the Eagles cut their deficit to 4 points, once with about two minutes to play.
But Carmel, which benefited from slapping on its own full-court press, knocked down 6 free throws in the final minute to salt away the victory.
"(Lakes) started becoming more aggressive and the game became more and more physical," said Carmel junior guard Kathleen Felicelli, who finished with a game-high 21 points. "But we adjusted later in the fourth quarter.
"We weren't panicked (about Lakes chipping away), I would just say we were motivated about it and knew that we had to turn it on and step it up more."
Carmel also got lucky when Lakes senior forward Terese McMahon was whistled for her fifth foul. She left the game with 1:41 left and Lakes down by 6 points, 46-40.
McMahon had been a thorn in the Corsairs' side all game. She finished with a team-high 19 points and was leading the late rally. She had 7 points in the fourth quarter alone.
"It was kind of frustrating (to be on the bench in crunch time), McMahon said. "But my teammates are just as good and we can all finish games.
"We never gave up. Our coach really pushes us on that. We were right there."
Carmel also got 10 points from junior forward Leah Lach, 8 points from junior forward Cassidy Kloss and 7 points from senior forward Claire Ogrinc.
Meanwhile, Lakes, which is 0-3 against Carmel in the 3-year-old series, got 6 points apiece from senior guards Nicole Mogged and Amanda Smith.
"We still love playing Carmel because it's always such a good game," said Lakes coach Pete Schneider, whose team drops to 3-3. "The three years we've played them, we've lost by a total of 12 points. Last year, it was a 1-point game.
"They're all hard-fought games because Carmel gets after it, and we like that. That's good. It's great competition and that's good for us."