ROYERSFORD >> The billing was straight out of a Tom Clancy spy thriller — remember Patriot Games? But the Patriots from Archbishop Carroll were the stars Friday night in the opening round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament, upstaging the Patriots from Great Valley, 61-48, at Spring-Ford High School.
“We’ve got to do a better job of finishing the game out and playing with the same intensity throughout,” Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said. “But I sure liked how we started the game.”
The third-seed from District 12, Carroll (19-8 ) advances to the round of 16 Tuesday, and will take on Palmyra at a time and place to be determined. Great Valley’s season, which included a Ches-Mont American title, ends with a 20-8 mark.
“The thing is (Archbishop Carroll) doesn’t really have any weaknesses,” Great Valley head coach Paul Girone said. “Everyone can handle the ball, and shoot the ball. They have a great coach and they run good stuff.
“They are just a good basketball team.”
It was a battle for tempo, pitting methodical Great Valley against more freewheeling Carroll. And for long stretches, Great Valley was able to slow things down, but Carroll thwarted that by forcing turnovers with wave after wave of ball pressure.
“This game was about tempo,” Romanczuk said. “We did a good job in the beginning of setting the tone and controlling the tempo of the game; maybe making (Great Valley) play at a speed they don’t want to play at.”
Archbishop Carroll’s trapping defense caused all sorts of problems for Great Valley, not just trying to bring the ball up-court, but also in the half-court. Quick hands in the open floor and overplaying the passing lanes wound up forcing 20 total turnovers, and Carroll turned them into a bunch of points at the other end.
“The defense played a big role in our win,” said freshman phenom A.J. Hoggard. “We work on it a lot, so it’s just normal for us. It helps us get leads and get runs.
“(Great Valley) likes to slow the game down, so we had to worry about back-cuts. But we practiced defending that and we were fine.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Great Valley vs. Archbishop Carroll
Despite turning it over seven times in the opening quarter, Great Valley pulled within 13-11 early in the second. It forced a Carroll timeout, but the reset worked as Carroll outscored Great Valley 17-3 the rest of the way to take a commanding 30-14 lead into the intermission.
“The second quarter hurt us the most,” Girone admitted. “We just didn’t move to the ball. That was unpleasant. At halftime, we railed against the kids, the way they were playing soft. And they shouldn’t. We’ve played some really good, tough teams. But sometimes in a big game, you get a little nervous.”
There didn’t seem to be any nervousness for Great Valley junior Nate Graeff, who scored 11 points and added five rebounds and three blocks. His 3-point play midway through the third quarter pulled the Pats to within 14. But Colin Daly nailed a 3-pointer and Hoggard scored a bucket to end the comeback bid.
“I usually don’t get nervous before games, and I had some butterflies,” Hoggard said. “But once I got on the court, it went away.”
Hoggard didn’t score in the opening quarter, but proceeded to pour in 16 points the rest of the way to lead a balanced Carroll attack. Daly and teammate Khari Williams each added 11 points.
“A.J. doesn’t play like a freshman,” Romanczuk said. “He has composure, poise, and he takes care of the basketball for us. We are a different team without him on the court.
“He can create offensive when nothing is there. And when we needed a bucket in the third quarter, it seemed like A.J. was the one that scored for us.”