MONTOURSVILLE - All season, Mount Carmel has won with grit.

Now that's championship grit.

The Red Tornadoes won a battle of attrition Monday against Warrior Run, 40-35, for their first Heartland Conference playoff title in the second year of the tournament.

It was the third time this season the two teams have met with Mount Carmel winning both earlier games, the first 47-37 and the second 40-31.

This game, for a shiny gold ball, was even closer and served as tuneup for the District 4 playoffs that start later this week.

"I think Division II is a tough division," Mount Carmel head coach Lisa Varano said. "I've said it all season long that

anybody can show up on any given night and win. Credit goes to the Heartland for putting it together and I'm glad we're leaving as the winner."

As was the case in both previous games, the first quarter was a feeling-out period and scoring was at a premium.

Mount Carmel's Paige Hornung hit a three-pointer followed by a steal and layup by Ali Varano gave the Tornadoes a five-point lead. And then the scoring stopped.

Warrior Run's Madi Welliver scored the Defenders' only basket at the 2:35 mark of the first, and then neither team scored until there was 5:13 left in the second when Mount Carmel's Isabella Stellar sank a 3-pointer.

What the first half did feature was the butting of heads of two high-pressure, high-energy defenses. There were a total of 23 turnovers between the teams as Mount Carmel went into the locker room with a 12-10 lead.

Then the offenses woke up in the second half.

After the break, Warrior Run started to hammer the ball inside to Steph Shamberg, who wound up with 15 points and scored the first four points of the third quarter.

Mount Carmel got what it needed from several different players, including Maura Fiamoncini off the bench.

Her assist to Ali Parker cut a Defenders' lead to 23-22 and then her 3-pointer on Mount Carmel's next possession put the Red Tornadoes back in the lead.

Also in the quarter Ali Varano went 2-for-2 from the line and had a layup, Brianna Lutz sank a jumper from 10 feet and Jen Bolick had a steal and a layup.

"I couldn't pinpoint one person," Lisa Varano said. "They all came up huge, every single one of them. At different times when we needed a spark, there was somebody there. The defensive effort was tremendous. Warrior Run is athletic and we knew they weren't going to go away."

The game was neck-and-neck through the three-minute mark when Mount Carmel scored on five straight possessions and the Red Tornadoes kept Warrior Run from pulling even with that same defensive effort.

"The pressure we put on the point made forced them to make bad decisions," Varano said. "That's what we were looking for, not necessarily steals, but that pressure."

Mount Carmel hosts South Williamsport Friday in their District 4 Class AA opener, and Monday's game was a great primer for their D-4 title defense.

"Sometimes you can be off for a long time before districts and be a little flat, so to have a game like this keeps the girls sharp," Varano said.

Game Summary

WARRIOR RUN (35) - Fisher 1 6-8 8, Eisenhuth 1 0-0 2, Hays 0 0-0 0, Boyer 0 0-0 0, Bastian 0 0-0 0, Webb 1 0-0 2, Shamberg 3 9-12 15, Welliver 2 4-8 8. Totals 8 19-28 35.

MOUNT CARMEL (40) - Bolick 2 2-3 7, Lutz 1 0-0 2, Hornung 1 3-5 6, Winhofer 0 0-0 0, Varano 2 6-8 10, Fiamoncini 1 5-8 8, Parker 2 0-0 4, Stellar 1 0-0 3. Totals 10 16-24 40.

WR 2 8 17 8 - 35

3-point FGs: Bolick, Hornung, Fiamoncini, Stellar.