Montini plays hard but can't topple talented Nazareth
Caroline Workman is returning to her most basic basketball roots in her first full high school season in three years.
Workman, Nazareth's 6-foot senior, wouldn't call herself a post. But point guard has never been her first position -- at least not until this season. She does, however, have a background playing guard.
"I've always had a little bit of ballhandling skills," said Workman, a University of Chicago commit. "That's the first thing I learned when I first started playing basketball."
She's clearly taken to it.
Workman showcased the many layers of her game during Tuesday's game with visiting Montini. She dished out assists for baskets, scored in the perimeter and near the rim, and hit the shot that turned away a Montini comeback in Nazareth's eventual 58-45 win.
"University of Chicago is getting a steal, and they know it," Nazareth coach Eddie Stritzel said.
Workman had 10 points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists Tuesday, one of four girls in double figures for Nazareth (14-1). Danielle Scully scored 14 points, Amalia Dray had 12 and Grace Carstensen scored 11 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Shannon Blacher scored 13 points and Sam Mogilinski and Sawyer White 10 each for Montini (10-6).
Stritzel made the decision in the summer to move Workman to point guard for a practical reason -- to get his best five players on the floor.
Workman played 33 games as a freshman for Nazareth's 2019 state team, but missed her sophomore year with a devastating hip injury. Then, like every other player, her junior year was cut short because of COVID.
"I said let's try it, and from day one she's done it. She plays center on defense and point guard on offense," Stritzel said. "She's picked it up. She's always had that skill, even from her freshman year."
That was apparent early on Tuesday. Workman scored five points in the first half with a couple driving scores and also dished out two of Carstensen's three three-pointers in the first half, staking Nazareth to a 28-16 halftime lead.
"It's definitely been a change from the last couple years, but I really like how my position has become more of a leadership role," said Workman, Nazareth's only senior starter. "Now I can see the floor and facilitate and run our plays."
Workman's pullup jumper extended Nazareth's lead to 32-16 early in the third quarter, capping off a 13-0 run. Montini clawed back behind Mogilinski's seven third-quarter points and five from Blacher. A basket by Montini's Victoria Matulevicius got the Lady Broncos within 40-34.
Workman, though, answered with a big 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter, turning away Montini's momentum.
"We definitely needed that momentum back," Workman said. "It was a big shot."
It carried over into the fourth quarter, Nazareth holding Montini scoreless for almost four minutes during a 15-2 run.
"That shot was definitely a momentum change," Montini coach Shannon Spanos said. "We played hard. We talk about in our program the only things you can control is attitude and effort. They never stopped playing. That [Nazareth] is a very good team. They're 14-1 for a reason."
Indeed, the Roadrunners are a uniquely difficult matchup.
Four of their five starters stand 6-foot or 6-1, and can score in multiple ways. The matchup issue extends to the defensive end, where Montini was held to 2-for-15 shooting from the 3-point line in the first half and committed 19 turnovers.
"It's hard to re-create their length in practice, to be honest," Spanos said. "They play that 2-3 zone and it's hard to attack."