MADISON — What could you expect for an encore after Madison and Carrabec played two thrilling games last season, including the one that decided the Western C girls basketball championship?

Both teams had decidedly different looks, and thus battled early-season rust and sloppiness. In the end, Madison survived Carrabec’s frantic last-minute comeback for a 38-36 victory on Wednesday night.

“Games with Carrabec are always intense, so you kind of get used to it,” said Madison’s Madeline Wood, who was 6-for-6 from the line and hit four big free throws in the fourth quarter. “But yeah, this was right up there with the intense games.”

Madison (2-0) had opened its season with an easy win over Telstar, but this win, over the defending Western C champions, meant much, much more.

“Kayla (Bess) comes back as the only starter, and we have a bunch of other kids, some freshmen coming in,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “I think it’s a big boost for their confidence, and hopefully they take it that way.”

“This one is huge,” Wood said. “It kind of sets the standards for us the rest of the season, and it’ll help us a lot in the long run.”

Madison led by as much as 14 in the first half, and was ahead 36-30 and had the ball with under a minute left. Moreover, Mickayla Willette and Liberty Chestnut had both fouled out for the Cobras.

But after a turnover, Carrabec’s Emma Pluntke (nine points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots) scored to get the Cobras within four. Madison was called for traveling, and Pluntke made another layup to make it 36-34 with 32 seconds to play.

Madison went back up by four when Bess caught a long pass and scored. Kate Stevens made a layup for Carrabec with 11.8 seconds to go, but the Cobras could not foul Madison before the buzzer.

“Down the stretch,” Veneziano said, “I thought we did some really good things.”

Led by Aly LeBlanc (nine points, six rebounds), Madison out-rebounded the Cobras 18-13 in the first half. Carrabec is missing guard Hannah Atwood to injury, and was playing its first regular season game, and both factors showed up at times. Midway through the second quarter, Carrabec trailed 15-5, and the Cobras were 2 of 14 from the floor, with 15 turnovers.

“We just haven’t found our way,” Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said. “It’s there, but we’ve just got to put it together. It’s not quite ready yet. We didn’t have the preseason work that we normally get, and it’s showing.”

Madison led 19-5 before Carrabec struck for seven points in the final 1:06 of the first half. That made the score a more manageable 19-12 at halftime.

“We kind of had a little letdown at the end of the first half, and they came back,” Veneziano said. “I mean, they came back hard.”

Carrabec stayed close throughout the second half but never took the lead. After having major rebounding problems in the first half, the Cobras scrapped their way to 14 rebounds in the fourth quarter.

“I liked their hustle,” Rugh said. “They never gave up.”

That makes three straight Madison-Carrabec games that have been decided late in the fourth quarter. The teams meet again next month in North Anson.

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