Nazareth hands Fremd 2nd loss
Grace Carstensen crafted one of the purest shooting strokes around through extra sessions with her dad.
She's got company now.
About a month ago, Amalia Dray and Nazareth's entire team made the commitment to come in, voluntarily, with Carstensen for extra shooting before school, and an hour before practice.
"I'm shooting more in practice and getting more shots up has helped my shot a lot," said Dray, Nazareth's junior guard. "I'm more confident to pull up within the scope of the offense."
All of that extra shooting sure paid off in Nazareth's biggest game of the season. Dray sizzled at the start with five 3-pointers in the first quarter. Carstensen had four and the Roadrunners made 11 threes as a team, riding that hot shooting to a 50-40 win over visiting Fremd in a matchup pitting the No. 1-ranked teams in Class 3A and Class 4A.
Dray scored 15 of her 17 points in the first quarter, as Nazareth (17-1) jumped out to a 23-8 lead that swelled to a stunning 34-14 by halftime.
The Roadrunners, who remained unbeaten against in-state teams, should be feeling mighty confident after the 12 days they've had. Nazareth has beaten Class 4A powers Young, Benet and now Fremd, as well as Montini during that stretch.
Carstensen added 15 points and Mary Bridget Wilson had five steals and four assists for Nazareth, which shot 11-for-24 from 3-point range for the game. The Roadrunners finished the first quarter on a 17-2 run, and forced 16 Fremd turnovers in the first half while committing just one in a near-flawless 16 minutes.
Fremd did not enjoy much of the first half.
Playing without standout sophomore Ella Todd, who missed her second straight game with an ankle injury, the Vikings (17-2) were all out of sorts offensively for a half against Nazareth's trapping matchup zone, with Wilson and Dray combining for eight steals. That, coupled with Nazareth's shooting exhibition, snowballed to the 20-point margin.
"It's another thing to talk about it, it's another thing to watch it on film and it's another thing to get out there and experience it," Fremd coach Dave Yates said. "My hope was that we would figure it out a little quicker. The third quarter we figured it out."
Indeed, Ellie Thompson's 3-pointer capped off a 7-0 Fremd run out of halftime. Fremd got the margin as close as eight, 37-29, on a follow basket by Brynn Eshoo with 1:12 left in the third quarter. But Carstensen closed the third quarter with her fourth three, and Dray's driving layup to start the fourth quarter got the Nazareth lead back to 44-29.
"We knew it was a big game, and we were all just super focused," said Carstensen, who scored 12 of her 15 points in the first half.
Yates said he hadn't seen Nazareth shoot quite like that on film, but Stritzel for one wasn't surprised to see it. Freshman Stella Sakalas, who scored seven points, also stuck a big 3-pointer in the third quarter to stem the tide.
Thompson scored 11 points and Eshoo 10 for Fremd, which can chalk up the game scheduled in the last month as a learning experience.
"The third quarter we fixed some things and figured some things out, one of them was covering shooters, but you can't bury yourself like we buried ourselves," Yates said. "I told the girls this game was put on the schedule for a reason. There's a bunch of things that we can learn that can prepare us for a sectional or supersectional. We need games like that."