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Little bit of an energy boost helps Carroll top O’Hara

Archbishop Carroll guard Ny'mire Little, right, seen in a game against Cheltenham with teammate Tairi Ketner, provided a fourth-quarter boost to Carroll as it squeaked by Cardinal O'Hara, 72-70, Sunday. (DFM File)

MARPLE — Listening to Ny’mire Little talk, his hands gesticulating and eyes wide with intensity, it’s hard to believe energy would ever be something the Archbishop Carroll guard would lack. But Sunday afternoon, as Little so passionately described, the general intensity of his Patriots in their regular-season finale at Cardinal O’Hara wasn’t at the elevated, sustained level he wanted.

So when given the chance to alter the trajectory of the game, Little and his backcourt mate Kiyl Mack made it happen with a dose of electricity.

The duo combined for 15 of Carroll’s 19 fourth-quarter points, including the decisive run early in the final frame that the Patriots rode to a 72-70 Catholic League win.

With the victory, Carroll (13-9, 9-5) clinches the seventh seed in the Catholic League playoffs. It’ll host Father Judge Wednesday in the opening round, denied a bye to the quarterfinals only by Archbishop Wood’s buzzer-beating win over Archbishop Ryan Sunday.

O’Hara (9-13, 3-12) finishes 11th, outside the 10-team playoff. The Lions’ last game of the season Sunday was used to commemorate Bud Gardler Day at O’Hara, with members of the legendary late coach’s family joining former players and assistants for a halftime ceremony on court.

Behind Little and Mack, Carroll compiled a 9-2 run early in the fourth quarter, stretching its lead to eight.

“We were up and we wanted to keep the momentum going. We started out slow, we didn’t have a lot of energy,” Little said. “When we got into the locker room, coach said we needed to pick it up if we wanted to make it into the playoffs and get a high seed. So my intensity went up, my energy level went up, and I tried to get my players involved.”

Little capped the run with a bucket to make it 62-54 with five minutes to go, and he added another basket after one O’Hara free throw to establish the widest margin of the afternoon at nine.

The pair was also 6-for-6 at the line to hold off O’Hara’s late charge. Little scored a game-high 18 points to go with three assists. Mack scored 13 points with four assists and four rebounds.

One of Mack’s second-half baskets came after he stepped into a passing lane, picked off a pass and sprinted down to slam for two. That’s the kind of defensive energy Little exhorted from his mates, something that O’Hara’s 3-point shooting offense dents, both in its halfcourt motion offense and the frequency with which they connected.

“I had to bring a little bit more energy, but they did hit good shots, but I had to just keep my composure,” Little said. “I had to keep my team, telling them if they’re making crazy shots, don’t get down on each other, pick each other up and get the win.”

O’Hara, which came in averaging more than seven made 3-pointers per game, nearly doubled that tally with a season-high 13 makes. Sean Hutchinson led the way with five 3-pointers and a career-best 21 points.

“We wanted to end the season strong, since we had a rocky start,” Hutchinson said. “We lost some games that we could’ve won, so we wanted to end the season strong.”

Four of Hutchinson’s makes came in the second half. His deuce early in the third gave O’Hara its final lead at 41-39.

Anthony Purnell buried three long balls for 14 points, and Eric Chamberlain added 12.

What the Lions couldn’t answer was Carroll’s height. As injuries and roster changes have shaped the rotation of first-year coach Francis Bowe, big men Anquan Hill and Tairi Ketner have seen more time on the floor together. Sunday, Ketner was a force early, scoring all eight of his points in the first three quarters and bulling his way past the Lions’ less imposing front line.

Hill was the more consistent scorer, tallying 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go with five rebounds and two blocks. One of the denials was a tremendous fourth-quarter chase down of Jameel Burton on a fastbreak to swat it against the glass.

Hill also hit a 3-pointer, the 6-7 sophomore’s ability to step out to shoot proving a useful floor-stretching device that opened lanes for Mack and Little to drive.

“I’ve been working on my shot a lot,” Hill said. “… Just being able to space the floor is great for me because it allows the guards to attack the lane and for it not to be so congested.”

“They both bring energy,” Little said of the bigs. “When they came in, they played together, they both push each other in practice. They both want each other to do well in games and in practice. That’s a great duo and I love those guys.”

Luke House scored 14 points for Carroll, to go with team-highs of seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Cole Burkitt added four points, including the final basket of the third quarter and opening bucket of the fourth.

For Carroll, Sunday was the fourth game in its last five decided by one possession; the fifth was an overtime loss to Wood. Those tight contests are something Little hopes will provide inspiration come playoff time.

“We learn how to keep our composure down the stretch and how to keep our players, keep our brothers up and not get our heads down when they hit big shots,” he said.

Also in the Catholic League:

Bonner & Prendergast 74, Lansdale Catholic 54 >> Tariq Ingraham scored 16 points, and Isaiah Wong added 13 as 14 Friars got on the score sheet. Donovan Rodriguez and Connor Eagan tallied seven points apiece for Bonner (17-4, 12-3), which seals the fifth seed in the Catholic League tournament and will travel to No. 4 Neumann-Goretti Friday night.

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