Nazareth nips Carmel with late 3-pointer
Most freshmen wouldn't dare take a potential game winning 3-pointer in the final minutes of their first career game.
But that's not the case for Nazareth's Olivia Austin -- or the rest of the large number of contributing freshmen on the Roadrunners this season.
Despite her youth and inexperience, Austin showed no outward signs of nerves in Wednesday's season opener against Carmel. Austin canned a corner 3-pointer, off a bullet pass from sophomore Gracie Carstensen, to lead the Roadrunners to a 47-45 victory in LaGrange Park.
The East Suburban Catholic Conference showdown was filled with underclassmen playing heavy minutes. Austin, a reserve, nailed her decisive 3-pointer, which came off an offensive rebound, with just over two minutes left in regulation to give the Roadrunners a 45-42 lead.
Her freshman teammate, Danielle Scully, broke open a tie game with two free throws with 32.6 seconds for the final points of the game. The Roadrunners (1-0, 1-0) received 27 of their 47 points from their four key freshmen. Austin paced the Roadrunners with 10 points, while Scully and freshman Amalia Dray both added eight points.
Carmel junior center Grace Sullivan led all scorers with 18 points and 9 rebounds.
Austin admitted it was a strange sight not to have any fans at the game, but she said her parents watched the game via livestream.
"Before I shot, I knew I had to go for it and be confident," Austin said of her late three. "After I made it, I was so glad, but I knew we had get back on defense and I put my focus on that. This was a very rewarding. I'm so glad to start the season strong."
Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel took an unusual approach by starting three freshmen -- Scully, Dray and Mary Bridget Wilson -- against such a quality opponent. Carmel sophomore Jordan Wood has a number of Power Five conference offers, and is widely considered one of the top 25 players in the country for her class. She tallied 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists.
"Austin made such a big shot," Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel said. "We knew the freshmen were good. We had them in our program. We're under the radar. It was a big win. Carmel is very big and are a matchup nightmare.
"But we have multidimensional kids. The kids know how to win. It got ugly at times, but our future is so bright."
The opener was a memorable moment for Nazareth junior Caroline Workman, who missed all of last season with a torn labrum in her hip. She scored 11 points, all in the first half.
"It's weird being one of three or four upperclassmen on the team, but everybody on the team has a role," Workman said. "It was so fun being out there. I forgot how fun high school basketball is. I'm really proud of how my freshmen played, and they all stepped up with huge games."
Austin said the freshmen benefitted from playing together for several years.
"We (freshmen) can all rely on each other because we've been together for awhile from AAU," Austin said. "It was a really exciting game. I'm so glad we could even have a season."
Carmel coach Ben Berg said he was happy his team bounced back from a turnover filled first half, while mentioning Sullivan's strong game.
"I thought for both teams for their first game there were some jitters, but both teams played well in the second half," Berg said. "We're doing some new things, and Grace did a good job running the floor. She's a very good athlete, getting up and down the floor."