Girls basketball: Defense, chemistry fuels unbeaten Alter

Alter's Karlie Romer shoots during the second half of Wednesday night's 51-27 victory at Carroll. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

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Alter's Karlie Romer shoots during the second half of Wednesday night's 51-27 victory at Carroll. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Knights move to 10-0 with win over Carroll

One layup after another bounced off the rim. It was an uncharacteristic problem, but the Alter girls basketball team didn’t panic.

“I know everybody has each other’s backs,” said Knights senior Caraline Kernan. “As soon as someone misses a layup: ‘You’re all right. Next play.’”

The next play was always on defense. And defense never let the unbeaten Knights down as they rolled to a 51-27 victory at Greater Catholic League Co-Ed rival Carroll on Wednesday night.

“We got a little frustrated with our inability to put the ball in the basket,” said Knights coach Chris Hart. “But we continued to play defense all night and that’s what we try to build our team on every year.”

Hart also saw teammates helping teammates as an early lead grew slower than it felt like it should have.

“They got down on themselves, but their teammates were picking each other up all night, which was outstanding,” she said. “They’re good kids and they look out for one another.”

There are lots of Knights supporting each other. Hart’s team is at least nine deep and she played each of them in every quarter. Sophomore Riley Smith leads the Knights in scoring at 15.3 points a game. Freshman Maddie Moody is next at 8.8. The next seven players average between 6.8 and 3.1 points.

“We have a lot of different parts and we’re interchangeable in many ways, which is helpful,” Hart said. “It makes it a little more difficult to prepare for us. We’re not just one or two kids. On any given night it could be any of our kids.”

On this night it was Kernan, one of three senior starters, with 12 points, junior Mehkia Shipp with 10 off the bench, Moody with eight and Smith and sophomore Elena Thompson with seven.

“I love the energy,” Kernan said. “The chemistry is really here this year and it’s a really solid group of girls. We all get along very well, and I think we’re genuinely having fun this year, so that always makes it a lot more enjoyable.”

Alter (10-0, 6-0) has risen back to the top of the GCL and is ranked No. 6 this week in Division II in the season’s first Associated Press poll. Hart coached the Knights to state championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Carroll coach Cecilia Grosselin also knows what the top teams in the state look like after leading the Patriots to the final four the past two seasons.

“They’re definitely one of the top teams in the state and we know they always give us a good game,” she said. “They have some great players, they have some bigs that definitely help them out, and they have bigger girls than we’ve probably ever had at Carroll in a long, long time. And their guards are good and have experience.”

The guards are Kernan and fellow seniors Emma Hansley and Karlie Romer. Hart leans on them to lead the younger players.

“We can use what we’ve learned over the years and teach it to them, but they fit right in, they learn quick and they work well with us,” Kernan said. “And they’re coachable. They don’t take it personal. They take it to heart and they work on it.”

Carroll (6-6, 1-4) is rebuilding with younger players in support of senior Sarah Ochs, who is leading the GCL in scoring at 18 points a game. The Knights’ defensive pressure kept the ball out of her hands a lot and held her to six points.

“We’ve got a lot of young players that we’re trying to integrate into the program,” Grosselin said. “They come to practice every day ready to work hard and play hard. We actually see an improvement in them as we’re going through the season.”

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