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Depth, explosive offense power Carroll past Friars

MARPLE >> Over 24 games, finding qualitative differences between Archbishop Carroll and Bonner & Prendergast posed a distinct challenge. Mathematically, the Philadelphia Catholic League’s points system couldn’t either, hence an impromptu meeting Friday night at Cardinal O’Hara.

But in the course of two head-to-head meetings in as many weeks, two glaring disparities emerged: The superior depth possessed by Carroll, and its propensity for devastating stretches of explosive offense.

Archbishop Carroll’s A.J. Hoggard (11) rises above Bonner & Prendergast’s Christian Lane (1) en route to the basket in the third quarter of Friday night’s game. Carroll rolled, 66-48, as Hoggard collected 16 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Both were on clinical display Friday in a 66-48 win that vaults Carroll into the District 12 Class 5A third-place game with Mastery Charter North next Wednesday for the district’s final PIAA tournament bid.

Bonner & Prendergast’s resurgent season concludes with a 16-9 record.

Though numerically it fell short of the 73-50 pasting Carroll hung on its Delco rivals on home court two Fridays ago, this win-or-go-home affair showed the best of what Carroll can do, starting with freshman point guard A.J. Hoggard.

Hoggard was the best player on the court, amassing the stat line to prove it — 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks. He orchestrated a heady but composed attack that staggered Bonner & Prendergast with a 14-0 second-quarter run, then knocked them to the canvas with a 16-2 opening to the third.

All told, from the point that Bonner went up 17-13 early in the second, Carroll (17-8) scored 33 of the game’s next 40 points, accruing the final 18-point margin solely over the middle quarters.

“We just never let off the pedal,” forward Keyon Butler said. “Coach told us to keep going and keep fighting and don’t let up. We know they’re a good team and they could’ve fought back into the game.”

Hoggard manned the helm, generating for himself while keeping the bevy of surrounding options in rhythm as Carroll dished 14 assists on 23 baskets.

“I just play like I’m not a freshman,” Hoggard said. “I’ve got to hold it down because I’m the point guard and a leader on the team. I just try to play hard and play my best at all times.”

The aggression of Hoggard and his teammates precipitated the game’s other defining trait — foul trouble for Ajiri Johnson. The Nigerian center still collected 15 points and 12 rebounds. But with four fouls midway through the third quarter, his shot deterrence was nowhere near its usual menacing best. It’s no coincidence that Carroll’s big men — Butler, Jesse McPherson and Devon Ferrero — combined to shoot 8-for-8 from the field for 21 points, led by Butler’s 10.

“We’re just trying to work together and find a plan,” Butler said of defending Johnson. “We knew before the game he was going to be a threat. We had to work together, think about how we were going to stop him off the glass and try to attack him and get him in foul trouble as much as possible.”

“It definitely does because (Johnson) has to be hesitant on blocking or going up for shots,” Bonner & Prendie forward Dylan Higgins said. “It kind of gave them more freedom around the rim when he got into foul trouble.”

The engagement of the bigs helped nine Carroll players find the score sheet. Colin Daly (11 points) and Justin Anderson (nine) hit three 3-pointers each as Carroll shot 54.7 percent from the field (23-for-42).

Nigerian center Ajiri Johnson (13) posted 15 points and 12 rebounds for Bonner & Prendergast in Friday’s 66-48 loss to Archbishop Carroll.(Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

The recipe Bonner & Prendie adhered to all season betrayed them Friday. With the outside shooting of Christian Lane and Justin Gans misfiring and Johnson limited, the Friars were left little recourse.

“It’s kind of difficult because we’re used to them making shots and working off of that,” Higgins said. “When it doesn’t happen, you have to find a new way to score.”

Higgins scored seven first-half points, and Tymir Cooper scored seven of his 10 after halftime. Deep reserve Yohance Garner stepped up with nine points. But for a team that primarily relies on five scorers, a combined 2-for-16 night from Lane and Gans spelled doom.

Higgins provided a dose of perspective. As a freshman, he and Lane watched a varsity team win five games. In three seasons under coach Jack Concannon, they’ve averaged 13 wins.

“It’s satisfying,” Higgins said. “We know in the future they’re going to be more successful. Just knowing that we’re a part of what started that, it’s a good feeling.”

But time is required to cultivate the kind of program depth Carroll can flex on a nightly basis. And taking the step toward another state tournament only reaffirms its grasp on the principle.

“You don’t want to go home,” Hoggard said. “You want to see another day. So we wanted to play hard and see another day.”

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