After a slow start, Carroll starting to put it together

Like most championship caliber teams in the Catholic League — and there are quite a few — Archbishop Carroll has been trending upward.

As they prepared for Little Flower Thursday night, the Patriots chose not to look too far into the distance, as Neumann-Goretti (12-0), Cardinal O’Hara (11-1) and Delaware state power St. Elizabeth wait on the horizon. Saturday, the Patriots take on New York-based Upper Room Christian at the Hoops For Hope Classic at University of Sciences.

“There’s no easy game,’ senior guard Lexi Stover said Wednesday.

The Patriots believe they are better now than at any point in their season. They went 4-4 in December, losing two games to national opponents at the Crescom Bank Invitational in Myrtle Beach.

After a lengthy holiday respite, the Patriots came back in January refreshed for their second season. Going into Thursday’s contest, coach Chuck Creighton’s team had reeled off five impressive victories in a row. In that stretch the Patriots defeated Caravel Academy, which was the second-ranked team in Delaware according to The News Journal, and Gloucester Catholic (N.J.).

Carroll leans on its shooting prowess. Stover, the Rider-bound All-Delco, and Julia Gantz are the team’s top scorers. Gantz, who is committed to Bloomsburg, led the way with 10.4 ppg. Jess Carney had 22 of Carroll’s 87 3-point field goals.

But the difference in recent weeks can be attributed to the team defense, an area in which the Patriots have improved as the season has progressed. They also know how to win in tight spots. That was evident in last week’s 42-39 win over Caravel and a 40-37 decision over Gloucester Catholic. Keara McNulty, another of Carroll’s senior guards, came through with a clutch 3-pointer in the waning moments of the Caravel game.

“It felt like in the beginning we had a million close games and we kept losing, losing, losing,’ Stover said. “Now we’re starting to win those close games and that’s helping with our confidence.’

“I think that will help us later down the road,’ added senior guard Ann McKnight, one of the team’s top defenders. “I think the more we play in those close games, it’s only going to work out for us. We have a lot of tough teams ahead of us, but we’re starting to play well and our defense has been much better.’

After an up-and-down first month, it’s all starting to click for the Patriots as they brace for the stretch run.

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In leading Springfield to its first win — and first in the career of head coach Ky McNichol — guard Maggie O’Connell had it going on from beyond the arc in Tuesday night’s 44-42 decision over Upper Darby.

O’Connell drained six 3-point field goals en route to a career high 20-point outing. She has hit 25 of her attempted shots from long distance, putting her among the county’s best in the category.

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In general, Tuesday night was a wild night of girls hoops in Delco.

First, there was the marathon game between Haverford and Strath Haven, with the Panthers finally emerging from the four-overtime affair with a victory. Haverford had won 11 in a row.

Strath Haven’s Katie Fisher enjoyed the best single-game performance of any player in the county, erupting for 39 points. Elsewhere in the Central League, Marple Newtown needed an extra session to gain an impressive road win over Conestoga. Rylee Power forced OT by converting a pair of free-throw shots with four seconds to play in regulation, then she went on to score seven of the Tigers’ 11 points in the fifth period.

Episcopal Academy snapped a two-game slide with a thrilling last-second triumph over Inter-Ac foe Baldwin. Meghan Pickell tied it with two foul shots. After a Maria Kilcullen steal, Pickell hit a pull-up jump shot with two seconds left to win the game

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Penn Wood has been shuffling the deck at the point guard position since Lorna Caesar transferred to Imhotep Charter prior to the school year. The Patriots, who were 6-5 entering Thursday and poised to defend their Del Val League title, have relied on Joy Morton, Gabrielle Hairston and Simone Walker, at the one spot.

“When I heard that Lorna left, to be honest, I was a little bit leery transitioning Gabby into a point guard because on her AAU team she plays shooting guard,’ coach Monique Boykins said. “But Gabby is a natural point guard. I just had to make her trust herself. So, we use Gabby and Joy, and it works pretty well.’

Morton, who was the Patriots’ starting center last year, believes the positional switch was the right move for her future.

“I know I needed to learn another position if I want to play in college,’ she said. “It hasn’t been that hard.’

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If losing senior guard Alyssa Monaghan for the first seven games and junior forward Princess Clemons for the entire season wasn’t hard enough for Bonner-Prendergast, La Salle-bound senior forward/center Shalina Miller missed the last four games, prior to Thursday, because of injury. Miller was averaging 15.8 points per game, but hasn’t played since a Jan. 6 victory over Little Flower.

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Quick Hits: Sophomores Kate Lannon and Shannon Savage have both scored in double figures in seven of Sun Valley’s 13 games as of Wednesday … Mahya Woodton has been the top scorer for Academy Park during its recent four-game winning streak. The guard was averaging 18.6 points over the Knights’ last three contests..

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