Ballinger powers Bonner-Prendie past Carroll

UPPER DARBY — When Bonner-Prendergast began the season without two of its starters, Amber Ballinger carried more weight on her shoulders than ever before. And one could say she has been the team’s rock ever since.

The senior guard’s workload increased when injuries hurt the Pandas in December and parts of January. She has answered the call, and even returned from a recent illness seemingly better than before.

“She’s been incredible,’ B-P coach Tom Stewart said.

Tuesday night, in another of a long list of gotta-haves for Bonner-Prendie, Ballinger was clutch. She netted a game-high 20 points, including 10 in the first half, to lead the Pandas to 58-50 victory over Archbishop Carroll.

Without Ballinger it’s hard to imagine the Pandas would be in this position, with more wins than losses in the first week of February. She had big games in December which kept the Pandas afloat, and Tuesday night Ballinger shot 6-of-9 from the floor and contributed six rebounds and two assists. She was the perfect complement to two-time All-Delco guard Alyssa Monaghan, who scored 16 points.

“I feel like I’ve gained a lot more confidence out, especially with controlling the ball and shooting the ball,’ she said. “When Alyssa was hurt, it changed a lot. Alyssa carries the team when she’s out there, so I knew I had to come out and tell the girls that it was going to fine and that we could do this.’

There’s a lot to like about Ballinger’s game and court savvy.

“She’s a smart player,’ Monaghan said. “She’s hard to guard when she has the ball and she goes hard to the basket. I’m definitely looking for her a lot.’

Of course, Monaghan would also play a vital role in Tuesday’s win. In the first quarter, Monaghan hit three of her signature 3-ball bombs from no-man’s land. The Pandas (12-7) and Patriots (12-8) combined for eight 3s and 35 points in the opening quarter.

The 6-2 Miller was hindered by foul trouble in the second half and Carroll tried its best to eliminate her altogether. She had a quiet impact on the game, posting 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. Her biggest contributions came on the defensive end where she blocked three shots.

“I knew I had to play smart and I couldn’t mess up and get that fifth foul,’ Miller said. “It’s frustrating watching from the bench knowing that you can help your team, but you can’t because you have four fouls.’

Miller hit Ballinger with a nice bounce pass to give the Pandas a six-point edge in the fourth quarter. Later, Miller had her third of three blocks.

Monaghan came out of the locker room and hit back-to-back baskets to give B-P its largest advantage, 45-32. Julia Gantz kept the Patriots in the game with hustle in the fourth quarter. Her steal and score brought the Pats within four, but Carroll couldn’t get closer despite big baskets from Lexi Stover (13 points, two assists), Gantz and Bella Sorrentino. Gantz had a strong all-around game with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

“In the end, it came down to the team that made more shots. They made more shots than we did,’ said Carroll coach Chuck Creighton, whose team shot 39.2 percent (20-of-51) from the floor. By comparison, Bonner-Prendergast converted nearly 50 percent (19-of-40) of its attempts and shot 14-of-16 from the charity stripe.

“It boosts our confidence,’ Monaghan said of the win. “We had a tough game against (Archbishop) Wood and we only lost by a few points. We’ve had some tough losses. This was probably one of our first big wins, I guess you can say.’

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