BOGGS TWP. — Shawn Smith hasn’t had the week he would’ve wanted.
First, the Archbishop Carroll senior guard rolled an ankle after the Patriots’ second states win, ruling him out of Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal victory, scraped out over Montour.
Friday, gutting out the pain, Smith was back in the lineup for Carroll in the semifinal against unbeaten Quaker Valley at Bald Eagle Area High School. And for three-plus quarters, Smith was showing just how valuable his presence was.
But soon after Smith fouled out with 3:47 to play, the most afflicted victim of a questionably (at the least) refereed contest, Carroll’s grasp on a spot in Hershey slipped away, in what was surely no coincidence. Down three at that juncture, Quaker Valley roared back, scoring 26 points in the final quarter to rally past Carroll, 67-60, and keep its unbeaten dream alive.
The District 7 champion Quakers (27-0) will try to complete a perfect season Thursday at the Giant Center against District 12 champ Neumann-Goretti, which pulled away from Dallas Friday night.
Quaker Valley wouldn’t be in that position if not for a gritty final eight minutes against the fifth seed from District 12. And Carroll (15-11) would not have been poised to spring a severe upset if not for Smith.
“It felt like I just had to get through the pain,” the 6-3 guard said. “I knew my team really needs me. I just had to fight through it and do the best I could to do anything I can to make the team better.”
For three-plus quarters, that was working to near perfection. Carroll led 15-6 after one and stretched the lead to 15 points early in the second quarter. When Quaker Valley surged in the second, the Patriots had an answer. Any assumption that the Quakers would fire out of the gates in the third quarter met stiff resistance, via a pair of Blake Deegan 3-pointers to give Carroll a 43-27 lead.
Smith made the offense go with a team-high five assists plus eight points. He also did enough to frustrate Quaker Valley’s two-headed monster, 6-6 guard Adou Thiero and 6-6 forward Markus Frank. The duo shot 7-for-22 in the first half, and with QV’s supporting cast absent, Carroll was in charge.
“We were down pretty bad early in the game, and the shots just weren’t falling for us,” Frank said. “We knew if we just stayed together as a team and played our own game, stuff was going to start falling.”
Carroll shot 13-for-27 from 3-point range, with Moses Hipps and Deegan hitting four triples on the way to 14 points each. Jake West canned two treys in the second quarter.
But the refereeing – Carroll was whistled for 21 fouls to Quaker Valley’s 15, though what constituted a foul was a moving target – caught up to Smith in particular. He fouled out with 3:47 left and Carroll up, 53-50. Frank would hit only one of two, but Jack Gardiner evened the game at 53 from the line on the next trip.
But Carroll, which nearly squandered a big first-half lead when Montour turned on the press late, again fell victim to turnovers when down a ballhandler like Smith. Thiero picked a pocket and swooped in for a lay-in to make it 55-53, Quaker Valley’ first lead. In the blink of an eye, Gardiner had another steal, Frank putting back his miss to make it 57-53.
A dazed Carroll never recovered, in what became a 20-5 run.
“I just know I had to be there as a leader for my teammates,” Hipps said of the fourth. “I think I could’ve done a better job as a leader in those moments, trying to keep cool.”
Frank led the way with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Thiero had 18 points and 11 points. Only four Quakers scored: Will Dunda hit three 3-pointers; Gardiner was 6-for-6 at the line for 10 points, plus four steals.
The Patriots, meanwhile, couldn’t get their big guys engaged. Hipps had five points in the fourth, but attempted just 11 shots. Ditto for Dean Coleman-Newsome, who finished with 13 points. (Thiero and Frank had a combined nine field-goal attempts and six trips to the line in the fourth alone). Shooting 3-for-11 from the line, including three missed front-ends in the second half, didn’t help Carroll, either.
It’s not the ending Carroll wanted. But it’s certainly better than the one they assumed awaited after, as the 10th seed, losing to Devon Prep in the opening round of the Catholic League tournament.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction,” Smith said. “After our last game at Devon Prep, we thought our season was over. … We knew we had to fight as hard as we could because we knew we didn’t want that feeling of losing again.”