Stover’s shooting practice pays off for Carroll

NORTHAMPTON — Lexi Stover suffered a broken nose taking a charge in Archbishop Carroll’s Catholic League playoff win at Cardinal O’Hara last month.

As the recovered from her injury, she would come to practice and stand on the court away from where the action was taking place.

“I shot a lot of (3-pointers) then,’ Stover said. “I was working on my shooting form.’

Stover showed how well all that practice paid off at Council Rock South High Saturday. She was 4-for-4 from the floor, including a pair of 3s, for 10 points in the opening period as Carroll raced ahead of Spring-Ford, District One’s fourth-place team, and maintained control throughout a 57-37 victory in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA Tournament.

The Patriots (17-8) will take on North Penn (21-7), the seventh-place team from District One, in a second-round state contest Tuesday night.

“Since she’s been back, she’s shot better than she has all year,’ Carroll coach Chuck Creighton said of Stover, who wears a mask while playing to protect her facial injuries. “Having her do what she did today was very nice.’

In addition to Stover’s contributions, Julia Gantz (13 points, two steals, two assists) was 2-for-2, including a 3-ball, in the opening eight minutes, and Jess Carney came off the bench to toss in a shot from behind the arc as Carroll rolled to a 20-4 lead.

“We got into our offense and everyone took good shots,’ Stover said of the team’s strong start.

At the other end of the floor, Spring-Ford (17-11) was 1-for-7 from the field in the first period and 4-for-16 at halftime, when the Patriots’ advantage was 32-10. Three of the Rams’ five starters did not have a point at the break.

“Getting that lead was big, and we played great defense,’ Creighton said. “We have drills at practice on communication and trust, and all five players out on the court were trusting each other here today.

“Our big girls (Kristin Ryan, who started, and Lexi Kucia, who came off the bench) really held their own inside. We got a little tentative in the third period, but some of that might have been because we had such a big lead.’

Gantz credited Stover for pointing the Pats in the right direction from the start.

“They had to try to stop her, and that made things better for the rest of us,’ she said.

Guards Keara McNulty and Ann McKnight did their share to keep the Carroll season alive. McNulty was 8-for-8 at the foul line and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal, and McKnight chipped in with eight points, three rebounds, one steal, one assist and one blocked shot. Both also contributed to the strong defensive effort.

“We always talk about how our defense generates our offense,’ McNulty said. “We have so much confidence in how that will help us get going. My teammates have told me I should look to shoot or drive more, so I did that today (to get to the foul line).’

McKnight hit four free throws when Spring-Ford had to keep fouling as the fourth period wound down.

“They had a good point guard, so I had to do what I could (defensively) to try to stop her,’ McKnight said. “It’s always been about playing good defense.’

For the next two days, it will be about getting ready to play another state tournament game.

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