Nazareth downs Carmel for ESCC tourney title

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood (13) snatches a rebound away from Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

    Carmel's Jordan Wood (13) snatches a rebound away from Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Jon Cunningham for Shaw Media

  • Carmel's Mia Gillis pulls the ball away from Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

    Carmel's Mia Gillis pulls the ball away from Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Jon Cunningham for Shaw Media

  • Nazareth's Mary Bridget Wilson (left) bounces a pass past Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

    Nazareth's Mary Bridget Wilson (left) bounces a pass past Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Jon Cunningham for Shaw Media

  • Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske (11) is fouled by Nazareth's Caroline Workman (31) during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

    Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske (11) is fouled by Nazareth's Caroline Workman (31) during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Jon Cunningham for Shaw Media

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood (13) blocks a shot by Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

    Carmel's Jordan Wood (13) blocks a shot by Nazareth's Danielle Scully during the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Jon Cunningham for Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 2/5/2022 7:55 PM

A hush came over the crowd when Nazareth guard Grace Carstensen sprained her ankle late in the first quarter of Saturday's East Suburban Catholic Conference girls basketball tournament title game against Carmel.

The 6-foot junior lay on the court wincing in pain for several minutes before being helped to the bench.

 

But Carstensen missed only 88 seconds of action before checking back in to the start the second quarter. She promptly sank a trio of 3-pointers.

"When I saw her on the floor, I was like, 'Oh, no,' " Nazareth forward Danielle Scully said. "We were all in shock. and I was like, 'Please don't be a serious injury.'

"Of course, she comes out and bangs those threes. That's normal Gracie for you -- tough kid."

Carstensen's return and Scully's gritty play in the paint helped fuel the host Roadrunners to a 58-47 victory. They offset big games from Carmel stars Jordan Wood and Grace Sullivan with a balanced offense and tough defense, a formula which opponents know all too well.

"They share the ball so well and they run their sets," Carmel coach Ben Berg said. "They're very disciplined and they make you work for every stop you get."

As she has done since she was in sixth grade, Carstensen shot around earlier in the day with her father, Curt, who is her designated rebounder, and was feeling in a good rhythm.

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Carstensen had made her first attempt, a go-ahead 3-pointer at the 5:25 mark of the first quarter, so still had confidence after the injury. Her first attempt after returning was an air ball, but she was not deterred.

After the Michigan State-bound Wood took a pass from Sullivan and sank a 3-pointer to give Carmel (20-7) a 21-17 lead, Carstensen drained back-to-back treys. Sophomores Olivia Austin and Amalia Dray followed with steals and layups to end the first half.

It was the start of a 15-0 run which included Scully hitting a 3 and Dray scoring on a drive to give the Roadrunners (25-2) a 32-21 lead.

"I thought their run at the end of the first half was big because that gave them a little bit of a cushion and we were chasing after that, which is a little bit hard," Berg said. "But I was proud of how the girls fought in the second half."

The 6-foot-5 Wood had an enormous game, leading all players with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Sullivan, a Bucknell recruit, shook off foul trouble and contributed 15 points, seven boards and four assists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sophomore Ashley Schlabowske, whose three free throws with 1.8 seconds left lifted Carmel to a 46-45 upset of top-seeded Benet in Wednesday's semifinals, sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to pull the Corsairs within 51-45 with 1:52 left in the game.

Carmel had a chance to get even closer, but Austin blocked a shot and fed Scully for a transition layup. Austin also assisted on Carstensen's 3-point play with 44.5 seconds left that bumped the lead to 56-45.

Scully, shared team-high honors with Carstensen with 15 points for Naz.

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