Girls basketball: Brooke Carlson, Batavia start fast, hold off furious Montini comeback

Colorado State commit scores game-high 24 points in Batavia’s 53-52 win

Batavia senior Brooke Carlson.

PALATINE – Plenty of guards are taller than Batavia’s Brooke Carlson, but few are stronger.

“It’s not like when you see a big, bulky football player, but the girl is very strong,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “She’s strong taking care of the ball, strong in her legs and strong with contact, so it’s hard to knock her off-balance.

“She might hit the ground sometimes, but there’s plays where the contact she’s getting would knock over 99% of everybody else that’s going to the hole. She’s incredibly strong.”

Carlson demonstrated that again Dec. 2 at the Chicagoland Invitational Showcase at Fremd. The 5-foot-7 senior poured in a game-high 24 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 53-52 victory over Montini.

The scoring wasn’t a surprise. It was some of the other things Carlson did that demonstrated her growth from last season, namely drawing two charging fouls from Montini start Victoria Matulevicius.

The Colorado State-bound Carlson also contributed five rebounds, two steals and a block for the Bulldogs (6-1), who never trailed after Carlson’s layup started an opening 12-2 run.

“Honestly, I think it’s some of the decision-making,” Jensen said. “You compare stuff from the last few years, the ability has always been there, but she’s seeing the exact moments better of when she needs to shoot, to drive, to facilitate.

“Even though there’s times when she might give it up, she’s finding herself getting back open even more. So it’s not making her scoring go down.”

Jensen said that’s partially because Carlson’s supporting cast has been solid. Addi Love had eight points, six rebounds and two steals against Montini. Kylee Gehrt added seven points and four assists.

“This is a really strong group,” Jensen said. “I’ve got a handful of other girls who at any time might go off for double digits.”

That’s helped Carlson, who has been expanding her basketball knowledge.

“That’s what I focused on in the summer is my IQ,” Carlson said. “It’s gotten a lot better. Especially playing with different girls, you have to figure it out. On our team we have so many good shooters.”

So, too, does Montini (6-2), which made things interesting down the stretch. Montini cut a 17-point deficit to one behind the play of Matulevicius, who scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, and Nikki Kerstein, who had 12 of her 16 points after intermission.

The Broncos trailed 53-48 when Alyssa Epps took a charge from Carlson, who fouled out on the play with 2:07 left.

Matulevicius scored on a layup with 16 seconds left to make it 53-52. Batavia missed two free throws with 7.8 ticks left, but with both teams out of timeouts, Montini had to settle for an off-balance 3-point attempt from Kerstein that missed.

“I’m so proud,” Carlson said. “Everyone knows their role and what they have to do. Even if I’m not in the game, I have 100% faith in my team for wining the game. It was amazing to see that all turn out well.”

Montini coach Shannon Spanos was pleased to see the Broncos rally, but not with her team’s start. The Broncos have lost two straight after a 6-0 start.

“It would have been a nice win,” Spanos said. “We have to come out with better energy in the first half. That’s been our nemesis. We have to set the tone and to have to dig yourself out of a hole that big is difficult, but I love the effort and energy we put in the second half. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too late.”

That was especially true of the Broncos’ defense against Carlson, who had 15 points in the first half.

“We took a charge on her and she got that fifth foul,” Spanos said. “We need our kids to do that in the first half, not in the last minutes of the game. She’s a nice player. She’s a great kid and we knew she was going to be a handful.”

So where does Carlson get her toughness? Opponents can blame her brother, Blake, who is six years older.

“I’ve always been really tough,” Carlson said. “I’ve always had to play grades up or I played in the front yard with my brother and he roughened me up. I feel like that’s the biggest part of basketball is the heart. So all those toughness plays are me loving the game and what I want to do.”