ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — A year ago, Carmel’s girls basketball team saw its season end in stunning fashion in a regional final upset.
Friday night, the No. 3-seeded Corsairs used tremendous defense and clutch foul shooting to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.
Carmel held St. Viator, the host and No. 6 seed, to a 20.7 percent field goal percentage en route to a 61-42 win.
Carmel got a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds from senior Kathleen Felicelli, who hoisted the Class 3A St. Viator Regional title plaque over her head with two hands, then let out a shout of joy moments after the final horn.
“This means everything,” Felicelli said. “This is what we’ve all worked for since day one of practice when coach [Kelly Perz] told us she wanted a sectional championship. Hopefully it’s just the next step toward that goal. We’re not done yet.”
The later the game went, the more the Corsairs (22-8) cranked up the defensive intensity. St. Viator shot 3-for-16 from the field in the third quarter, 3-for-18 in the fourth and 11-for-53 total. The Lions (15-16) compounded their woes by missing all 13 3-point attempts they took.
Earlier in the season, Carmel lost at home to St. Viator by three.
“I think right now we have a lot more team chemistry than we did when that happened,” said Corsairs senior Cassidy Kloss, who also finished with a double-double (18 points, 10 boards).
Foul shooting was a major factor in the outcome. After going just 8 of 16 from the foul line during the first three quarters, Carmel shot 17-for-20 from the charity stripe in the fourth, finishing at a 69.4 percent clip as a team. Leah Lach (12 points, six offensive rebounds) made 6 of 7 foul shots in the final five minutes.
“Coach does things during practice to try and find ways to distract us when we’re shooting foul shots,” Kloss said. “She’ll have people screaming while we shoot, play music real loud — anything to try and distract us. It paid off tonight.”
St. Viator ripped down 19 offensive rebounds, but few were converted into second-chance points.
It was the final home game for Lions seniors Kelsey Trimble, Sam Hogan and Erin Fabbri (team-high 12 points).
“Those three are pretty special kids,” St. Viator coach Christina Jost said. “They came in every day and did everything I asked them to do. No questions asked.”
Carmel, which lost to North Chicago 64-60 in last year’s regional final, finished the game’s final three minutes on a 13-2 run. The Corsairs advanced to play Antioch, the No. 2 seed, in the Class 3A Ridgewood Sectional semifinals at 8 p.m. Monday.
“I’m just so happy for these girls right now,” Perz said. “They deserve this opportunity and this moment.