SYCAMORE - The new season is only a week old, but it's not too early for a key battle between Midland Athletic League favorites.
"This league's tough," Carey coach Phil Vaughn said. "... You knew going in, when we look at the front of the schedule and right there is Mohawk, at Mohawk. In our league you play everybody once, and you get one shot."
Vaughn and his Blue Devils made the most of their one shot at a team thought by many to be one of the top challengers to knock them off the top of the MAL mountain. An early fourth-quarter spurt and clutch foul shooting led Carey to a 48-42 win.
"It was a big win," Vaughn said. "Went back and forth, they went up early, we come back. It was kinda a tug-of-war there. Then again, like [Carey's season opening win] against Wynford, I felt like we hit our free throws down the stretch. We had a rash of turnovers in the first half, I felt like we settled down a little bit more at the end of the game with turnovers. It seemed like we took care of the ball at the end of the game better then we did through the first 28 minutes or so."
After falling behind early, Carey took a 24-20 lead into halftime, only to see Mohawk's Julie Adelsperger key her team in a third-quarter rally. Adelsperger knocked down a 3-pointer with time ticking off the clock to give Mohawk a 34-32 advantage heading into the fourth.
"We were just saying, 'keep playing, keep going hard. We can do this,'" Carey's Ali Rymer said.
Carey started the fourth quarter strong. A basket by Sydney Wentling tied the game, then Rymer gave her team the lead, converting an and-1 play. Hannah Draper followed with a basket and the Blue Devils quickly turned their deficit into a 39-34 lead.
"We needed to win the fourth quarter by four points, heading into it with the mindset that we needed some stops. We needed to get back to at least even so mentally you know that it's there," Vaughn said. "It's a lot easier when the scoreboard reads even or your ahead. The girls got some stops and got some big rebounds I felt in that stretch."
Rymer said a strong start to the quarter was important.
"It was big so we didn't have to force shots and make ourselves take bad shots," she said. "They had a lot of holes so we would take advantage of that. We'd cut into open spots; we did some things to get easy shots."
Rymer topped the Blue Devils with 14 points and shared the team-high in rebounds with Shelby Kin, pulling in six.
Mohawk kept fighting back, twice getting within a point, the last time coming with 1:17 to play when Megan Cleveland pulled down an offensive rebound then assisted on a Clara Adelsperger basket that cut Carey's lead to 41-40.
Carey, though, hit 10 of 11 foul shots in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"We just got to get more fundamentally sound on the offensive end," Mohawk coach Mike Beck said. "We were having trouble making 10-foot passes. It's hard to get into an offensive flow when you're continually turning the ball over. I thought our defense, especially in the second half, we made the adjustment at halftime that we can't play behind in the post. 'Cause if a post player can score and you let them pass it they're going to score. ... I thought defensive, it was better the second half. I think if we continue to improve defensively, I think that will help us win a lot of games."
Mohawk started the game fast, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and a 13-9 advantage after the first quarter.
Carey, though, turned up the pressure defense in the second, forcing nine turnovers in the quarter as the Blue Devils jumped ahead.
"I just felt like they were too comfortable in their offense," Vaughn said. "It seemed like they were running good sets. We knew Julie could shoot. Her shots that went in hand a hand in her face, they were contested 3s. When we helped too much, that's when Kasey (Adelsperger) hurts you. ... I felt like we had to start running and jumping a little bit, and get them our of their comfort zone."
Mohawk was able to improve its ball control in the third quarter while Julie Adelsperger heated up from the field.
She scored 11 of her 14 in the third quarter as Mohawk rallied to take the lead
"I felt that was a real critical part in the comeback," Beck said. "We talked about in halftime that some of our better players were going to have to step up offensively. We adjusted against their little trap, their man-trap and went to more of a two-guard look and I thought we did a lot better in attacking the trap against our man offense once we did that."
Julie Adelsperger also led the team in rebounds with seven. Kasey Adelsperger chipped in 12 points.
Wentling added seven points for Carey while Kin and Draper each added six.