Girls basketball: Carmel stuns Nazareth for 3A championship

  • Carmel's Grace Sullivan, Jordan Wood, Ashley Schlabowske and Maia Cordova celebrate their Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Grace Sullivan, Jordan Wood, Ashley Schlabowske and Maia Cordova celebrate their Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Grace Sullivan, Jordan Wood, Anna Hartman and Mia Gillis start to celebrate the Corsairs victory against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Grace Sullivan, Jordan Wood, Anna Hartman and Mia Gillis start to celebrate the Corsairs victory against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood and Ashley Schlabowske, left, celebrate their Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood and Ashley Schlabowske, left, celebrate their Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood jumps with her teammates to start the celebration after the Corsairs victory against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood jumps with her teammates to start the celebration after the Corsairs victory against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Grace Sullivan and Jordan Wood, right, laugh and cry after winning the Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Grace Sullivan and Jordan Wood, right, laugh and cry after winning the Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel coach Ben Berg and his team show the championship trophy to the crowd at the Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel coach Ben Berg and his team show the championship trophy to the crowd at the Class 3A state championship at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood and Nazareth's Caroline Workman collide as they chase a loose ball in the corner in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood and Nazareth's Caroline Workman collide as they chase a loose ball in the corner in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Mia Gillis and Nazareth's Olivia Austin battle in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Mia Gillis and Nazareth's Olivia Austin battle in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Anna Hartman shoots from the corner against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Anna Hartman shoots from the corner against Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Grace Sullivan pulls in a rebound against Nazareth's Gracie Carstensen in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Grace Sullivan pulls in a rebound against Nazareth's Gracie Carstensen in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood is fouled by Nazareth's Caroline Workman in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood is fouled by Nazareth's Caroline Workman in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Nazareth's Caroline Workman and Danielle Scully, right, steal the ball from Carmel's Jordan Wood in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Nazareth's Caroline Workman and Danielle Scully, right, steal the ball from Carmel's Jordan Wood in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Nazareth Academy stands in line to receive their second-place medals and trophy after losing to Carmel in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Nazareth Academy stands in line to receive their second-place medals and trophy after losing to Carmel in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Nazareth's Mary Bridget Wilson guards Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Nazareth's Mary Bridget Wilson guards Carmel's Ashley Schlabowske in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood signals her teammates in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood signals her teammates in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood passes to a teammate in the Class 3A state championship game against Nazareth Academy at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood passes to a teammate in the Class 3A state championship game against Nazareth Academy at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Mia Gillis look for a teammate in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Mia Gillis look for a teammate in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Grace Sullivan makes a move to the basket against Nazareth's Caroline Workman in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Grace Sullivan makes a move to the basket against Nazareth's Caroline Workman in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Jordan Wood shoots in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel's Jordan Wood shoots in the Class 3A state championship game at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel teammates surround Ashley Schlabowske as she goes to the free-throw line with seconds left in the Class 3A state championship game against Nazareth Academy at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

      Carmel teammates surround Ashley Schlabowske as she goes to the free-throw line with seconds left in the Class 3A state championship game against Nazareth Academy at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal on Saturday, March 5, 2022. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/5/2022 9:04 PM

NORMAL -- Carmel's Jordan Wood collapsed to the floor in a sea of teammates near midcourt at Redbird Arena on Saturday night.

Wood, a Michigan State recruit, laid on the floor, covering her face with both of her hands for several seconds before reappearing with a face full of tears.

 

The junior guard had dreamed of winning a state championship since she decided to attend Carmel in a highly publicized recruitment before her freshman season.

Wood finally had her dreams realized in stunning fashion.

Sophomore guard Ashley Schlabowske buried 3 free throws in the final 28.1 seconds to power Carmel to a 43-39 win over top-ranked Nazareth in the Class 3A state championship game.

The Corsairs (28-7) capped a historic season by avenging two losses to Nazareth (33-3) to win the program's first state title.

"I had a really good feeling about tonight," Carmel coach Ben Berg said. "We lost to them twice during the regular season but it's hard to beat a really good team, which we are, three times in a season. I liked our poise and we hit free throws down the stretch and got contributions from people off the bench, like Kyla Smith. We worked our way through some foul troubles. I'm really proud of these girls."

Senior center Grace Sullivan, a four-year starter and Bucknell recruit, led the Corsairs with 13 points and 13 rebounds, Wood chipped in with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals and Mia Gillis scored 8 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.

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"My goals for my basketball career were always to become a Division I athlete and always to win a state championship, and proved that today with my favorite team," Wood said. "Before coming to Carmel, I had some other options, but just stepping into Carmel and meeting Coach Berg, that's when I fell in love with (Carmel)."

But it was Schlabowske's late free throws that helped give the Corsairs the state trophy. She made 3 free throws to beat Benet on Feb. 5, but added another chapter to her growing big-game legacy against Nazareth. She made a free throw with 28.1 seconds and a pair with 11.2 left to stave off a late rally by the Roadrunners, who scored just 3 points in the final 3:17.

Schlabowske finished with 5 points, including hitting her 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch that will go down as one of the clutch moments in program history. On a team with two Division I recruits, Schlabowske was the hero.

"I was a little nervous, but I knew it was just like the Benet game, and I had to get back on defense," Schlabowske said. "Close games are the best moments."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Nazareth junior guard Gracie Carstensen paced the Roadrunners with 11 points, hitting 3 of her 6 3-pointers. Carstensen canned a deep 3 to slice the deficit o 40-39 with 38 seconds left to set up Schlabowske's late-game heroics.

The Roadrunners could never get on track on the offensive end, missing their first eight shots to finish 12-for-36 from the field while making just 10-of-16 free-throw attempts.

"I thought their size bothered us, even in the first two games we won," Nazareth coach Eddie Stritzel said. "We struggled so much shooting and scoring, especially early in the game. They caused us a lot of problems tonight."

The Roadrunners defeated the Corsairs with ease in their earlier two games, including a 58-47 in the conference championship game on Feb. 5.

The third installment between the East Suburban Catholic Conference members was played at a much slower pace, with both teams perhaps feeling the pressure of playing for the state title. The two teams combined for 50 points in the first 22 minutes.

Berg said playing Nazareth three times was a big key to the state-title victory, plus he credited a 28-14 advantage on the boards. The Corsairs scored 28 points in the paint and dominated the boards to tune of 28-14.

"Nazareth is a tough matchup but we had seen them before, and we made some improvements during the season and executed today," Berg said.

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