READING >> Archbishop Carroll and Harrisburg played a frantic fourth quarter of basketball Thursday night.
Junior guard Molly Masciantonio knew, in her heart of hearts, that the Patriots would do whatever was necessary to move on in the state tournament.
“We did everything we could to not lose it,” Masciantonio said. “We’re such a bonded team, there was no way it was going to end here.”
“Here” was the second round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament at Reading High’s Geigle Complex. With both teams on the see-saw for most of the quarter, senior guard Bella Sorrentino made four free throws late in regulation to lift the Patriots to a 48-45 victory over the District 3 runner-up.
Carroll advances to the quarterfinal round Saturday to play District 7 third-place finisher Trinity, which defeated District 7 champion Chartiers Valley, 50-36.
“We just wanted to win. I think maybe we wanted it more than them,” Sorrentino said. “We hit some big shots, made some free throws. It was a complete effort.”
The Patriots (19-9) grabbed a 43-40 lead on a Theresa Kearney basket midway through the fourth quarter. Ahmya Woodyard banked in a 3-pointer to even the score, and Harrisburg grabbed a one-point lead later in the stanza. But the Patriots were able to make the most of their free-throw opportunities, and a big steal by Masciantonio late in the stanza helped set up Sorrentino’s final two foul shots.
“We wanted to go a game further than we were last year,” Masciantonio said. “We wanted to do whatever we could to win this.”
It’s been a few years since Carroll has experienced a long run in the state tournament. The Patriots captured a pair of state championships in 2009 and 2012, when now head coach Rennie Shields was an assistant under Chuck Creighton. That team has Drexel University stars and All-Delcos, Meghan Creighton and Sarah Curran.
“To be honest, this group has never tasted what it’s like to be in a states run,” Shields said. “That’s what we continue to talk to them about. They’ve never had that experience in the past. Once you get into it, you do not want to get out it. I think we’re now getting into the vibe where now we’re thinking, this is what we want to do now. It’s pretty cool.”
And for the seniors, this is their last chance at doing something special.
“I want to go as far as we can,” Sorrentino said. “We’re determined not to have it end too soon.”
The Patriots showed they can handle the pressure of a stressful atmosphere in states. It’s safe to say the Harrisburg fans outnumbered Carroll’s Thursday night.
“I’m most proud that they finished out the 40 minutes and gutted it out,” Shields said. “It was a good environment. Nobody wanted us to win.”
Masciantonio drilled a few clutch 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Maggie Pina added 13 and Sorrentino chipped in nine, including those four big free throws to help the Patriots to victory down the stretch.