Carmel heads to supersectional after beating Deerfield

 
By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/24/2022 9:03 PM

Deerfield and Carmel represented a unique test in terms of varying girls basketball strengths on Thursday night.

This season, after winning just their third regional title since 2007, the Warriors have reached new heights in their program history by relying on three highly skilled but diminutive guards in junior Lexi Kerstein and freshmen stars Nikki Kerstein and Aubrey Galvan.

 

The Corsairs are on the opposite end of the spectrum, not height-challenged at all. In fact, Carmel possesses one of the tallest teams in the state, with 6-foot-5 Jordan Wood, 6-4 Grace Sullivan and 6-1 Mia Gillis all playing vital roles.

Thursday's game represented a test of teams with contrasting styles and wide variance in height and backcourt play. In the end, the top-seeded Corsairs' abundance of height and inside play controlled the game.

Wood scored 19 of her 22 points in the second half to lift Carmel to a 68-60 win over the second-seeded Warriors in the Class 3A Grayslake Central sectional championship game.

"My teammates passed me the ball and we were able to take advantage of our height, especially inside," Wood said. "It was hard, though. Deerfield was a lot different from St. Viator, a lot shorter and more shiftier and their guards looked to attack more."

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The Corsairs (25-7) advance to play Sycamore in Monday's Dundee-Crown supersectional at 7 p.m.

Wood, a Michigan State recruit, also collected 8 rebounds and 4 steals, plus hit five late free throws in the final 68 seconds to slow down a late rally by Deerfield (26-6).

Sullivan scored 18 points and pulled down 8 boards and added 4 assists, while Gillis tossed in 11 points and tallied 11 boards.

"Deerfield is really good, and those guards are tough to corral," Carmel coach Ben Berg said. "I'm really proud of my girls. We gave up a few more points than I thought we would, but I knew we could score. It was tight, but we handled their press and played smart."

Deerfield nearly pulled off a shocker, led by Lexi Kerstein's 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. Nikki Kerstein played strong in the second half, scoring 14 of her 19 points and Galvan had 9 points.

The Warriors have relied on their three dazzling guards all season, to the tune of 43 points and 13.2 steals, but they couldn't matchup with Carmel's superior height advantage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sullivan, a Bucknell recruit, came into game averaging 14.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Wood is averaging 14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 blocks per game to go with shooting 45 percent from the field. The Warriors struggled battling Wood and Sullivan, especially in the half-court.

"We knew we're a really strong team, and we had to battle," Lexi Kerstein said. "We played hard the whole time and didn't win like we wanted, but we fought really hard. I knew we had a young team, so I knew I had to take that leadership role early in the game."

The Corsairs showed off their shooting prowess in the first half, hitting 3 3-pointers to seize a 33-27 lead. Sullivan sparked the Corsairs with 12 points and 5 rebounds to offset a big effort from Lexi Kerstein, who scored 14 of her team's first 16 points.

The Corsairs pulled away behind a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter after the Warriors cut the deficit to 51-49. Wood came up big on defense and Gillis helped handle the pressure to lead the Corsairs to their second sectional title in Berg's tenure.

"It was a team win," Berg said. "All the girls played well, from Mia to Kyla Smith coming off the bench. We knew we had to get Jordan going in the second half, and we did that."

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