The pressure of a tight game was more than Carmel Catholic coach Kelly Perz could stand.
OK, not really, but Perz decided that for good luck, she wouldn't watch her Corsairs shoot free throws. Until, that is, they were perfect through their first seven.
"My assistant reminded me we hadn't missed one and then I turned around," Perz said. "We had been struggling with free throws and I knew in this game it would come down to that."
For the rest of the second-round game at the Warren Blue Devil Classic in Gurnee on Wednesday night, Perz didn't miss a play. Good thing, too, because lucky or not, the Corsairs were on their game against Palatine.
Carmel broke open a tight contest with great free throw shooting down the stretch, and Palatine couldn't overcome the loss of leading scorer Nia Pappas as the Corsairs defeated the Pirates going away 45-36.
Carmel (9-4 overall, 2-2 in the tournament) will try to wrap up first place in its pool with a win over Deerfield on Thursday.
"This being my third year here, the girls are starting to realize that defense and rebounding is a big part of winning games like this," Perz said. "I thought we did an excellent job on both of those things tonight."
Even without the floor leader in Pappas to guide the attack for Palatine (12-4), the Pirates' offense started well with the help of senior McKenzie Wiedemann. She connected for 6 first-quarter points to help the Pirates open up an 11-10 advantage after one quarter.
"Early on, McKenzie had those three left-handed drives and I think at halftime, Carmel adjusted," said Palatine coach Leslie Schock. "We saw Carmel play against Warren the other night and tonight they came out as a different team than we saw the other night."
Carmel secured the lead for good on a bucket by Leah Lach just before halftime, and then junior forward Emma Rappe asserted herself in the third quarter to help the Corsairs pull away.
Rappe scored 7 of her 10 points in the second half, including a stretch in the fourth quarter where the outcome was still in doubt. Rappe scored a pair of buckets on a pair of rebound put backs to help Carmel extend the lead to 38-32 with 4:27 left in the game. Rappe added 5 rebounds to go with her 10 points.
"Emma had a great game tonight for us off the bench," Perz said. "She works hard around the basket and it did pay off for her."
With Pappas out, Palatine's scoring load went to Wiedemann, who tied for game-high honors with 10 points.
"I told the girls with Nia out we needed some girls to step up and have big games, and we had some girls that didn't have great games tonight," Schock said.
Palatine is 1-1 in the tournament and will wrap up pool play Thursday against the host Blue Devils at 7:30 p.m.