WESTFIELD TWP. — As the Cloverleaf girls basketball players sang the alma mater arm in arm Saturday afternoon, coach John Carmigiano had a friendly postgame chat with Coventry counterpart Ryan Stoops.
When the discussion finished, Carmigiano’s giddy players swarmed him for a lovable group hug, leading to “Carm” becoming beat red in the face within seconds. Realizing their coach was embarrassed, the players moved on to assistant Jeff Patterson, Carmigiano’s best friend and right-hand man.
The moment was special not because the Colts crushed the Comets 60-35 in Portage Trail Conference Metro Division action to move to 13-0, 8-0 but because Carmigiano passed Ed Stupica (162-162, 1981-96) as the school’s all-time wins leader.
As usual, the popular Carmigiano consciously avoided saying “I” in his postgame interview and stressed that Patterson deserves equal credit.
“We have a really good bunch of girls this year, and it’s fun to see everyone understands their role,” Carmigiano said. “Everybody’s just having a good time with the streak going on right now.
“We really didn’t know how this season was going to go, so we’ve been trying to enjoy it as much as possible as the wins keep adding up. We’re always keeping in mind that the kids are really focused on trying to win a conference championship, so we’ve worked hard every day to make sure that happens.”
Carmigiano will take a 163-146 record into a non-league game tonight at Ashland (9-8). The 45-year-old replaced another close friend, Julie Solis, after the 2003-04 season and eventually developed a fast-paced, always-attacking offense that often produces an entertaining style of play.
The road to history wasn’t always smooth, as the Colts began the Carmigiano era with four straight non-winning seasons until a 15-7 breakthrough with Candace Andel, Brooke Forsythe, Brittani Pekar and Co. in 2008-09. But Cloverleaf has sparkled with a 48-12 overall record since leaving the Suburban League for the PTC Metro and goes into a mammoth showdown at rival Norton (10-4, 8-1) on Wednesday in sole possession of first place.
More importantly, the extremely laid-back Carmigiano has the backing of his players, who all seem to excel with unselfishness, foul shooting and flying into the passing lanes for steals that help make the simple-but-effective offensive and defensive systems work.
“I mean, he’s just an all-around great coach,” senior Lexi Rhoads said. “He knows how to get us motivated when we’re not playing well. He really gets us to push the ball and get up and down the court.
“I’ve only seen him get made a couple of times. It is really scary — I’m not going to lie — but it really motivates us to get better because he doesn’t get mad often.”
Questions surrounded what normally would have been a ho-hum game against the Comets (5-7, 3-4) because starting point guard Cameron Tripp was in street clothes with a bruised knee. That placed Jenna Oliver into the starting lineup, moved Medina County leading scorer Helaina Limas (25 points) to the point and led to big minutes off the bench from guard Maddie Boltz.
In what amounted to one of the most well-rounded wins of the season, the Colts started fast with a 10-2 run and were never threatened seriously. They flustered Coventry with a diamond-and-one defense on 14.5-point scorer Taylor Norris (10 points, 8 in second half) and again dominated the rebounding battle behind power forward Lisa Wangler (9 points, 14 rebounds) and center Mckenna Jordan (6, 13).
Limas had another Limas-like game with 14 points in a 26-9 run that left no doubt, but Boltz stole the show with a career-high 12 points, three rebounds and three assists and Rhoads, who entered with two career points, thrilled the home crowd with two jumpers in the final minutes of the first half, including a buzzer-beater while fading left from the elbow that made the score 34-15.
Oliver (3 assists, 3 steals), Boltz, Rhoads and Brianna Gallagher (6 rebounds, 2 assists) made up for Tripp’s absence.
“We played bad on Wednesday (in a 41-33 win at Streetsboro) and (Carmigiano) wanted us to go out and show that we’re not like how we were at Streetsboro,” Boltz said. “Even losing Cam, we still went out and played together as a team.”
After everyone filed out of the gymnasium, Carmigiano didn’t celebrate. The routine remained the same, as he said goodbye to wife Christie, who has kept a shot chart for 308 of his 309 games, and headed to his classroom with Patterson and assistant Gina Fox to email a detailed box score to media outlets. Carmigiano then left for Lorain County to referee the Avon-North Ridgeville varsity boys game.
There’s no time for rest for a man who teaches journalism and theater along with coaching basketball and softball, and everyone at Cloverleaf wouldn’t have him any other way.
“It’s great for him to get that milestone because he deserves it,” Boltz said. “First of all, he can always make us laugh. Even if we’re having the worst day of our lives, he always makes us laugh. He’s also very knowledgeable. He has great basketball IQ and knows when to put us in and take us out.
“He does so much for the school. Every event I go to, here’s always there. He’s filming, he does journalism classes, he does Colt TV News and without him, I don’t think — first of all, the basketball team — the school wouldn’t run the same way. He does everything.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloverleaf 60, Coventry 35
COVENTRY 6 9 13 7 — 35
CLOVERLEAF 14 20 20 6 — 60
Coventry — Kegan Fast 0-0-0, Paige McGonigal 0-1-1, Takaylyn Hudson 4-3-11, Taylor Norris 4-2-10, Maddie Ross 4-0-8, Stacey Arnold 0-0-0, Isabella Pieri 1-2-4, Cassidy Karakis 0-1-1, Kylie Goodlet 0-0-0, Tori Clowser 0-0-0, Makenzie Raybuck 0-0-0, Celina Cerankowski 0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-9-35.
Cloverleaf — Jenna Oliver 1-0-2, Lisa Wangler 3-3-9, Mckenna Jordan 2-2-6, Brianna Gallagher 0-0-0, Helaina Limas 10-3-25, Maddie Boltz 3-4-12, Lexi Rhoads 3-0-6, Elizabeth Cooper 0-0-0, Megan Scheck 0-0-0, Bailey Freeland 0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-12-60.
3-point goals — Limas 2, Boltz 2. Rebounds — Coventry 35 (Hudson 7), Cloverleaf 46 (Wangler 14, Jordan 13). Assists — Coventry 6 (Fast, Hudson, Norris, Ross, Goodlet, McGonigal), Cloverleaf 7 (Oliver, Boltz 3). Records — Coventry (5-7, 3-4), Cloverleaf (13-0, 8-0). Junior varsity — No game.