McNulty helps Carroll sneak past O’Hara

Two halves of play, two overtime periods and a long shootout tie-breaker later, the Patriots had prevailed. Keara McNulty assisted on a second-half goal and played well defensively for Carroll.

Friday afternoon, McNulty and her Carroll basketball teammates made the trip to Cardinal O’Hara for a Catholic League quarterfinal playoff matchup with the Lions, who had dominated the Pats in their regular-season meeting three weeks ago.

McNulty was one of several Carroll players who made key contributions as the Patriots (15-6) knocked off the Lions (18-5), 40-38, to advance to a semifinal showdown with undefeated Neumann-Goretti at Philadelphia University Thursday night.

With her team ahead by one point, McNulty took a feed from Julia Gantz and dropped in a 3-point shot with 3:30 to play. A Gantz bucket, a steal and another basket put Carroll up, 38-30, with just under 2:30 left.

O’Hara came right back on a 3-pointer by freshman Maura Hendrixson and a steal by Hannah Nihill, which she turned into two points. Carroll’s last two points came on free throws by Ann McKnight, the first with 42.8 seconds left and the other with 2.8 on the clock.

In between all of that excitement, Nihill set up freshman Mackenzie Gardler for a 3-point basket to cut the Pats’ lead to one point, and Jess Carney, who had hit a 3-pointer in the third period, failed to connect on the front end of a one-and-one situation for Carroll 12 seconds from the final buzzer.

Nihill took the ball into the lane and headed to the hoop looking for the winning basket. McNulty had other ideas, getting a hand on the shot, bringing the roaring Pats’ fans to their feet.

“I think that’s my first blocked shot this year,’ said McNulty (seven points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal), an All-Delco field hockey player. “We knew we had to match up and play solid defense. (Nihill) had one of our players on her hip, and I just went with her.’

As for her offensive help in the fourth period after getting only two points in the first 24 minutes, McNulty had a simple explanation.

“You take what the defense gives you,’ she said. “You know you always have to be ready to do your part.’

All of the Patriots had to do a little more after Lexi Stover went down after she took a charge with 1:40 left in the first half. Stover headed for the hospital to have a facial injury treated. She had made all three shots she took in the opening period for seven points, and had nine points when she was injured.

“Lexi was a big focus for everyone on this team in the second half,’ McNulty said. “We knew she’d be thinking of us.’

Gantz (12 points, four rebounds, one steal, one assist) made sure as soon as Carroll’s post-game team meeting with coach Chuck Creighton had ended that she found her phone and called Stover.

“She says she’s playing Thursday,’ said Gantz, a Bloomsburg University recruit. “All week, we’ve had good practices getting ready for this game, and it all came together today.

“The big word our coaches used was trust. We knew we had help if we needed it.’

McKnight said she and her teammates work on “situations’ at practice so they are prepared when there are only seconds left on the clock in a close game.

“We have fun with it,’ she said.

Friday afternoon, the Carroll fans weren’t having fun in the last few seconds until McKnight hit the free throw that gave the Pats a 40-38 lead.

“I could hear how loud it was behind me,’ McKnight said of the noise coming from the O’Hara student section. “I tried not to think about anything but making my shot.’

Creighton was delighted with the way his players responded, especially with thoughts of a 60-43 loss at O’Hara in the back of their minds.

“They didn’t try to do too much,’ Creighton said. “They played within our system, played with confidence and played good team defense.

“Keara McNulty was the captain of our ship out there. Whenever the rudder drifted a little, she steered us back in the right direction.’

Nihill tossed in 14 points, got four rebounds and added an assist and a steal and Gardler (two steals, two assists) and Mary Sheehan, who was scoreless in the second half, both had eight points and four rebounds for O’Hara, which started two sophomores and three freshmen.

“(Carroll) played a good game,’ said Lions head coach Linus McGinty, whose team will be off for two weeks before taking part in the District 12 playoffs.

“We did come back, and we had the ball with the chance to tie the game or go ahead there at the end.’

In the other Catholic League quarterfinal:

Archbishop Ryan 50, Bonner-Prendergast 48: Danielle Skedzielewski banked a jumper from the top of the key with two seconds left to bring the Pandas’ Catholic League playoff run to an end.

Bonner-Prendergast has already qualifed for the PIAA Class AAA tournament and will play a seeding game in two weeks.

Maggie McPeak hit both ends of a one-and-one with 20 seconds left to tie it, but the Raiders had the last say. Alyssa Monaghan paced Bonner-Prendie with 25 points and seven steals. Shannon Glenn and Shayna Rodriguez paced Ryan with 15 points each.

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