Carroll rested and ready for next test

Somewhere between Ryan Daly’s awkward put-back jam to end the first half and David Beatty’s runner to close the third quarter, Archbishop Carroll’s attention Tuesday night turned from the accomplished task at hand to the next obstacle.

In an increasingly rough-and-tumble, 83-54 shellacking of Steelton-Highspire in a PIAA Class AAA second-round contest at Reading High School’s Geigle Complex, there was a certain amount of forward thinking from the Patriots.

For one, that meant a little rest for some of their stars, making Derrick Jones’ fourth foul with 3:30 left in the third quarter, for instance, a blessing in disguise in a game that the Patriots (21-6) led by 32 after three quarters. Foul issues meant that Jones, Beatty and point guard Josh Sharkey spent ample time resting up, and the final three minutes of the game was overseen by the reserves for both sides.

That was a necessity given the Steamrollers’ aggressive fouling tactics that led to 30 personal fouls (one flagrant), three disqualifications and 42 free-throw attempts for Carroll.

“Coach Paul (Romanczuk) just told us to keep our head and just to stay focused and don’t get into anything stupid because we’ve got more games to play,’ Sharkey said.

That next game Friday night (Chambersburg H.S, 7 p.m.) is tricky in two ways. Not only is this the stage at which the Patriots were unceremoniously dumped from the tournament last season, it’s against a team that hasn’t lost a PIAA playoff game since 2013.

Carroll’s next opponent, New Castle, has quite the pedigree, belying the fourth seed from District 7 with which they entered the tournament.

This year’s New Castle team, to be sure, isn’t the same as last season’s undefeated, 31-win team that beat La Salle in the Class AAAA final before being dropped a classification this season. The top four contributors on that team were all seniors.

But if there’s one thing Ralph Blundo’s Red Hurricanes (22-5) have proven, it’s that they can punch above their weight, then and now. They arrive in Chambersburg after a 50-43 upset of WPIAL champion Indiana Tuesday, using a 20-8 advantage in the fourth quarter to upset the Indians and notch a seventh straight PIAA Tournament victory.

Much like last year, the Red Hurricanes aren’t imposing or physically superior, but the whole far exceeds the sum of its parts. They bested a much taller Indiana squad thanks to the quick guard duo of Marquel and Marcus Hooker, both of whom stand 5-10 and aren’t to be confused with the star of last year’s team, Malik Hooker. Geno Stone and Robert Natale, a pair of 5-11 guards, are capable of changing games with their long-distance shooting.

Despite the cohesiveness of the Red Hurricanes, they’ll have problems matching up with a Carroll team that just drubbed the District 3 champions Steel-High, a team with a similar profile (dependence on the outside shot, no one over 6-2, etc.) Derrick Jones should have his way against smaller defenders, and if players like Beatty and Daly (13 rebounds last game) can take care of business on the glass, it could be a long night for New Castle.

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