Cabrini defeated Mount Carmel 64-60 and both coaches left Cabrini’s Esplanade Avenue gym content with the intensity level on Saturday morning.

The girls basketball playoffs could begin as early as Wednesday — the day after Mardi Gras.

District 9-4A Cabrini (24-5 and No. 5 in the New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10) was No. 6 in the unofficial LSHAA Class 4A power rankings. Mount Carmel (22-8 and No. 6 in the Super 10) is No. 6 among 5A schools.

“We play (Mount Carmel) right now so that we can play a hard team before we head into the playoffs,” Cabrini coach Nancy Walsh said. “What else do we have to do at 9 a.m. on Endymion Saturday morning? Drink Bloody Marys? Why not (play)?”

From the start both aggressively attacked the other’s basket, and Cabrini managed to punch out a 29-28 halftime lead.

Enter Cabrini senior Erin Temple, known at Cabrini as the team’s defensive captain.

But in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Temple is know as Maid of the Court. Zulu’s coronation ball was Friday evening, so Temple missed school Friday.

Temple had to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game. “That’s such a great honor,” Walsh said. “But she did miss classes.

“She is so important to us, especially on defense.”

Once Temple entered the game, there was no sign of late-night cobwebs.

She scored eight points in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds, as Cabrini pulled away to a 48-38 lead by quarter’s end.

“All I thought about was helping my team,” Temple said of her late entry. “I was so worried that I had let my teammates down.”

Mount Carmel was still 11 points behind, 60-49, with 2:12 remaining when Kristen Nuss forged a Cubs’ comeback.

Nuss, who finished with a triple double (10 steals, 11 assists and 12 points) had a hand in MCA’s final six baskets. Her driving layup was followed by a steal and basket and then Nuss found Lauren Bodino near the goal for another basket. It was 60-55 with 43.6 seconds to play.

Two free throws by Rakell Spencer, who scored 19 points, made it 62-55 with 39.9 seconds left.

Nuss then hit Taylor Berry with a crisp pass and Berry, who scored 20 for Mount Carmel, buried a 3-pointer, making it 62-58 with 30 seconds remaining.

When the Cubs missed late, Cabrini rebounded. The Crescents had a 37-18 edge in rebounding. Spencer grabbed 13 rebounds, and Kyla Williams added 12.

Mount Carmel’s normally efficient 3-point shooting was off. MCA hit 4 of 14 3-pointers.

“They know us,” Mount Carmel coach Kevin McGlathery said.

“They are quick and defend the perimeter well.”