RADNOR — It wasn’t easy Friday night at Archbishop Carroll to spot which members of the Patriots’ rotation were freshman. It has gotten easy, however, to perennially rely on the program both placing faith in rookies and then watching them blossom.
Two of Carroll’s five double-figures scorers in a 77-66 season-opening win over Penn Wood were produced by that freshman class. Ian Williams had a team-high 16. Nasir Ralls added 10. And so the conveyor belt turns again in Carroll’s talent factory.
“I feel like those guys are prepared through AAU and their battles,” senior guard Dean Coleman-Newsome said. “They’ve been tested, so they understand that they’ve got to go in and play hard and be confident. The main thing we want for them is to be mentally poised and understand the pace of the game, controlling the pace of the game and taking shots that are timely.”
It’s nothing new at Carroll. Jake West was the freshman of the moment last year. Moses Hipps got those looks two years ago, exploding into All-Delco status by his sophomore season. (He’s since transferred to a high school in Georgia.) And long ago, Coleman-Newsome was one of those fab freshmen. His advice to the youngsters Friday was about readying for the moment, to approach it with “calm and confidence” in front the most intense environment they’ve likely encountered.
It worked, for the most part. Williams, who looks like Coleman-Newsome’s heir apparent as a compact combo guard, added nine rebounds and five assists. With Ralls, a lanky wing with a preternaturally quick release, they combined to go 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
Ralls hit both of his triples in the third quarter, one off a dribble-drive from Coleman-Newsome to turn a six-point halftime lead into 44-32. Williams knocked down a corner 3 in the waning seconds of the frame, in front of the Carroll student section, again from Coleman-Newsome, to make it 59-48.
“We want to trust them to be who they are and not change their games,” Coleman-Newsome said. “We want them to be confident in themselves, so that’s what Coach (Francis) Bowe preaches. That’s how we try to bring our guys up.”
Penn Wood’s high scorer also made his debut Friday: Senior guard Nasir Washington, a transfer from West Philadelphia with considerable recruiting interest. He led all with 19 points, but in an occasionally hectic game, Penn Wood’s guards as a whole leaned on the jump shot more than was sustainable.
Even so, the matchup of 2022 PIAA qualifiers – Penn Wood in Class 6A, Carroll reaching the 4A semifinals – showed elements for a deep postseason present in Penn Wood.
Neither team was crisp, as 39 combined turnovers indicate. Penn Wood attacked well off the bounce and pushed Carroll into early foul trouble, but only cashed in on 11 of 20 trips. Anthony Murray scored 14 points plus four steals and six rebounds, but the backcourt tandem shot just 13-for-35 from the field and 4-for-18 from 3-point range. (One of the makes was an outstanding wing triple while being fouled in the third that Washington turned into a four-point play.)
“We’re not used to it, but he’s a great player,” senior forward Mekhi Shillingford said of Washington. “I like Nasir. He can do it all. We’ve just got to build chemistry with him.”
Penn Wood attempted to establish the post more in the second half with Shillingford, who was 3-for-4 from the field in the first half. But he didn’t get a make after the break, thanks to frequent trips to the line. He finished with nine points, nine rebound and six blocks.
“They try to feed me as much as they can,” Shillingford said. “The second half, coach wanted me to get some more plays to get me more involved in the offense.”
Murray and Washington had three straight steals to end the first half, fueling a 6-0 run to get Penn Wood within 37-31. Once Carroll, which coughed the ball up 14 times in the first half, limited that weakness, it started to sustain separation.
Coleman-Newsome did his usual bit – 15 points (on just nine field-goal attempts), six steals and five assists. West and Blake Deegan had 13 points each, Carroll surmounting junior wing Su’meer Alleyne being held scoreless with foul trouble.
Like Williams to end the third quarter, Deegan late in the first half and Seamus Rogers at the first-quarter buzzer canned corner 3s on Coleman-Newsome kickouts from the lane. That is the flipside of the All-Delco floor general’s request for trust in his young players: Trust in their game to get them in the right spots, and they can trust Coleman-Newsome to help them make the most of it.
“They trust me to get them the ball,” he said. “I’m just preaching, to everybody, the attitude of unselfishness. So I know where they are going to be at, and they know where I’m going to be at.”