PIAA Class 6A Girls Basketball: Archbishop Carroll bursts from halftime gate, runs to state semis

BENSALEM — The clock at Bensalem High School showed 15 seconds when Brooke Wilson allowed herself to crack a smile. The senior guard and her Archbishop Carroll teammates had just been winging the ball around the half court for 30 seconds, tying to avoid Abington’s last-ditch attempts to foul.

Up double-digits, in a matchup of teams you might not have expected to be playing for a PIAA Class 6A semifinal berth a month ago, Wilson had done the hard work to get her team in position to advance, and guarantee a Delaware County team will play for a state title this year.

Wilson orchestrated a pristine second half, threatening a triple double with 12 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists as Carroll rallied to top Abington, 55-43. The Patriots (14-11) advance to the semifinals to take on rival Cardinal O’Hara, which dispatched Central York, 61-49.

Wilson was the driving force. Carroll entered halftime having shot 6-for-21 from the field. The high scoring trio of Wilson, sister Taylor Wilson and Alexis Eberz were just 6-for-18. Add in nine turnovers – three of them momentum-killers just after getting a stop on the boards – and Carroll generated little momentum, fortunate to get into the break down just five.

So a reset was in order.

Archbishop Carroll’s Taylor Wilson goes up for a shot against Abington during their PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal Friday at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

“We needed to wake up,” Brooke Wilson said. “That was the first thing (Coach Renee Shields) said when she walked in. She said, ‘I don’t know who you guys are; you’re not playing like Carroll.’ We all took a reset, took a 10-minute reset, took a deep breath and we came out in the third and fourth quarter like Carroll and played really well.”

The response was immediate, a 15-2 run to start the half. Brooke Wilson hit a shot, then found Eberz in the post. Eberz added two from the line, and Wilson fed Taylor for a 3-pointer.

What had been a 24-19 hole was a 29-26 edge, one Carroll never relinquished.

From the first-half struggles, Carroll shot 10-for-18 after the break. The big one was Eberz, who tallied a team-high 24 points; 20 came in the second half, with a game-changing 11 in the third quarter.

“I’m so proud of her,” Brooke Wilson said of Eberz. “She has the capability to do everything, and she showed it this game. … She’s very confident with the ball and very mature, and she doesn’t play like a freshman. She plays like a senior.”

All that was left was defense. In the first half, Abington generated looks from its half-court sets. It struck a sustainable balance: Star Cire Worley had 11 points, the rest of the Ghosts had 13.

But after the break, Carroll’s help defense and constant switching through screens took away the 3-pointers and drives from the backcourt, leaving Worley to try to bully her way to the basket. She did so effectively plenty of times, on the way to 24 points. But it took a toll, needing 22 shots attempts to get there, the looks increasingly forced and under duress in the lane.

Taylor Wilson took the lead defensively, but the help-side defense was always there.

“Taylor had to play really rough against No. 1 (Worley), but we all had to encourage her,” said Meg Sheridan, one of Carroll’s most vocal and fundamental defenders. “We knew she would be the one to challenge her. We were all in help defense, but we knew we could just bluff and we’d be ready for that dump pass because we knew she was really crafty on her passes. We were just always ready to help each other out.”

Part of the momentum rise that Brooke Wilson sought came on the boards. She grabbed 20 rebounds, while Taylor Wilson paired 14 points with nine boards. It made for a 44-21 edge on the glass.

“It’s huge,” Brooke Wilson said. “We knew we could capitalize on the rebounds and we did. Rebounding was key to that game.”

Worley was the only Ghost in double figures. Abril Bowser and Piper McGinley added seven points each. A 3-for-19 day from 3-point range didn’t help matters.

Eberz shook a defender in the post to make it 40-32 after three. The teams traded baskets early in the fourth, but Carroll took a patient approach. Combined with 18-for-25 shooting at the line, they offered Abington no route back in. A Worley and-1 early in the forth got Abington to within 40-35, but they’d get no closer.

That means Carroll, which struggled through the regular season and drew District 12’s third seed, is rolling to within one win of Hershey.

“I just love being surrounded by the team and the coaches, and I love playing basketball,” Brooke Wilson said. “Whenever we get a chance to extend our season a little longer, we’re very fortunate.”

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