COAL TWP. — The team of seven from GAR had the red-clad crowd supporting District 4 champ Mount Carmel worked up in a frenzy.
The Grenadiers simply would not go away. Even with whistle after whistle seemingly going against them. Even with no way to stop the Red Tornadoes’ top player, Christina Perles.
Finally, too many fouls caught up with GAR, which finished with just the five players on the floor still eligible to play in an 80-70 loss to Mount Carmel in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A Tournament.
The win sends Mount Carmel (23-4) into the second round Tuesday against Pine Grove. GAR ends its season 14-12.
“She had a tremendous game,” Mount Carmel coach Lisa Varano said of her top scorer Perles, who finished with a game-high 30 points. “It was a mismatch that we were able to take advantage of.”
Even so, the game — which Mount Carmel led by one 2:30 into the third quarter — was evenly played. Both teams shot 46 percent from the field. GAR enjoyed a slight edge on the boards (44-39), while Mount Carmel was two better in turnovers (19-17). The Grenadiers had three of the five three-pointers made in the game, while the Red Tornadoes made 16 of the 27 free throws that were true.
There were eight lead changes and five ties in the contest.
Total fouls were nearly level as well, with GAR having 22 and Mount Carmel 20. But the timing of those whistles took the Grenadiers out of the game.
GAR was in the bonus six and a half minutes into the game, as eight of the first 12 calls went against the District 2 squad. In the second half, with the outcome still up for grabs, eight of the first 10 foul calls went against the Grenadiers.
“You could see they were really frustrated,” said Perles, stretched out on the floor after the game because of leg cramps, of the third quarter. “You could see it in their faces. They started to put their heads down.”
Marena Spence fouled out in the third quarter. Bre Mosier was gone with 4:25 left in the fourth. The calls eventually evened out, but it was too late to save GAR’s season.
“How does that … ?” GAR coach Hattie Caruso started when asked about the foul calls. Caruso followed by saying her team had not been in that kind of foul trouble all season.
“Two girls fouling out happened maybe once, back around Christmas,” Caruso said, noting her roster was at nine active players at that point. “It was tough (tonight). I’m a little heartbroken that it went that way.”
“The foul situation … the refs called it both ways,” Varano said. “They called a tight game.”
Julianna Leco made a pair of threes in the first quarter, the second knotting the game at 15 six minutes in. Brea Seabrook made a layup with 1:36 left in the half to give her 14 before the break and tie the game at 33.
In the third quarter, GAR began to go inside to freshman Marie Skrepenak, as Seabrook found her with an entry pass for the layup that made it 40-39 Mount Carmel with 5:30 to go in the third quarter. But as the fouls piled up again on the GAR side of the scorebook, the Grenadiers came undone.
Nine of their 19 turnovers came in the third, and they gave up 29 points in the quarter.
GAR played three games this season where its opponent didn’t score 29 points in the entire game.
Mount Carmel closed the third on an 18-2 run, eventually stretching its lead to 21 early in the fourth. Despite their foul woes, the Grenadiers slowly chipped away, and Seabrook had eight points in the final 2:10 to complete her career-best 29-point night. She also had 12 rebounds and six assists.
Skrepnak finished with a personal-best 16 points, along with 15 rebounds and four blocks.
“Some things just weren’t falling for us,” Caruso said. “But you just keep moving forward. Just play the game to the best of your abilities.
“I’m very proud of these girls. We’ve come a long way … conference champs, going to states. It’s been an amazing journey.” Ali Varano had 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assist, and Anna Raybuck posted 12 rebounds for the Red Tornadoes.
GAR (70): Bre Mosier 3 0-0 6, Marena Spence 4 0-0 8, Julianna Leco 2 0-0 6, Majeedah Nealy 0 0-0 0, Lindsey Quinn 2 0-0 5, Brea Seabrook 11 7-12 29, Marie Skrepnak 5 4-10 16. Totals 28 11-22 70.
MOUNT CARMEL (80): Paige Hornung 1 0-0 3, Ali Varano 8 8-12 24, Christina Perles 12 6-9 30, Isabella Stellar 3 0-1 6, Anna Raybuck 4 0-0 8, Bridget Dankel 0 0-0 0, Jordan Winhofer 2 2-2 7, Darla Hood 1 0-0 2, Ali Parker 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 16-24 80.
Mount Carmel20152916— 80
Three-point goals: GAR 3 (Leco 2, Quinn), Mount Carmel 2 (Hornung, Winhofer).