LANSDOWNE >> John Rigsby is quick to deflect your logic with a smirk.
The conventional thinking for most teams, seeing a lead spiral up to the 20s, to the 30s and beyond, is to relax, take a little of the sting out of the game, maybe be a little more deliberate.
But for Archbishop Carroll, in that position Thursday evening?
“No,” the small forward Rigsby says with a scoff. “We like to pile it on. We like to pick it up and always keep the intensity up from the first minute to the last minute.”
From start to finish, that was the motive in Thursday’s 80-39 demolition of Penn Wood — suffocating, incessant and clinical.
The relentless desire was exhibited at the most crucial juncture. Carroll led by 13, 35-22 at halftime. But instead of being content with nursing that cushion, the best avenue of defense was to go on the attack. The directive from coach Paul Romanczuk was to work the first four minutes.
It took just 3:20 for Penn Wood’s Clyde Jones to decide he’d seen enough, calling timeout when Ryan Daly laid one in in transition from Josh Sharkey, capping a 16-2 run that removed any shred of doubt as to the final result.
“Coach Paul always says that the first four minutes of the second half, we’ve just got to jump on them and we’ll get that over with after the first four minutes,” Rigsby said. “And that’s what we were able to do.”
The adversity introduced by Carroll to start the second half tunnels to the weakness at the heart of Penn Wood. It has started the season 3-2 thanks to a bevy of offensive contributors from a largely inexperienced backcourt, but when the pressure was ratcheted up Thursday, they wilted. They looked for someone to take charge and stem the tide of momentum, but nothing they tried could slow down the Carroll runaway train.
According to Jones, most of that frustration stems from a lack of confidence.
“Run stops happen when you get to the free-throw line and make good decisions with the basketball and have a plan for how you’re going to attack the defense,” Jones said. “… It’s demoralizing. But we were telling them to execute and play with some confidence, and we didn’t get it.”
Contributions came from everywhere on the roster for Carroll (5-0), with 10 players scoring. Daly led the parade with 26 points and nine rebounds. Rigsby chipped in 13, including five on the put-away run to start the second half. Sharkey’s scoring, at 11 points, was secondary to his true impact. He added five rebounds, six steals and six assists, plus numerous other outstanding feeds that could’ve been assists if not for an uncharacteristically cold jump-shooting night for Carroll at 7-for-25 from 3-point land.
The biggest emphasis, though, was playing to Carroll’s ultimate strength: The quick transition from offense to defense. They forced 20 Penn Wood turnovers and never seemed to be more than a few strides and a pass from threatening the hoop.
The brand of organized chaos that Carroll fosters was perfectly suited. Where the youthful hosts struggled when sped up to the dizzying tempo tapped out by Sharkey, Carroll flourished. So much of that, Daly said, is due to the shape-shifting blur that is Sharkey in the lane.
“We have a high, high team chemistry, higher than a lot of teams, I think,” said Daly, a Hartford commit. “Higher than anyone, maybe. We love playing with each other. And a lot of that has to do with Josh.”
Carroll’s dominance was much more than one or three players. Carroll won the rebounding battle, 47-30, aided by eight boards from Miks Antoms in just three quarters. Devon Ferrero hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter. Keyon Butler logged some big minutes early.
For Penn Wood, Thursday’s lessons were instilled with a distinct sting. Vincent Smalls led the way with 12 points, but needed 16 shot attempts to get there. Kairi Jones’ 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half narrowed the gap and gave him 10 points at the break, but he added just one point after the break as Penn Wood was limited to 17 in the final 16 minutes.
Jordan Johnson was just 1-for-5 from the field as Penn Wood made a concerted attempt to establish the post. He picked up three quick whistles to foul out at 3:50 of the third quarter.
Though Jones’ team has gotten a taste of some early success, Thursday presented a potent reminder as to how much work remains.
“This was a lack of confidence game,” Jones said, “and the fact that Carroll is a really good team, deep, they shoot well and they compete at a very high level all the time. It’s a good lesson for us.”
In other nonleague action:
Phelps School 55, Haverford School 49 >> Kharon Randolph hit three 3-pointers to finish with 19 points, but the Fords (5-4) couldn’t hold on to a one-point lead after three quarters.
Jack Marshall added 14 points for Haverford School.
In the Ches-Mont:
Octorara 67, Sun Valley 64 >> Kyle Ryan canned five triples to finish with a team-high 19 points, but the Vanguards couldn’t complete the comeback from an 18-point deficit after three quarters.
Ryan Hall added 17 points, and Wali Sabree chipped in 16 for Sun Valley (1-5, 0-1).
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