PIAA hoops: Sleeper Carroll peaking ahead of Patriot game with Great Valley

With a combined 53 games of experience to draw upon this season, it seems overly simplistic to characterize the meeting between Archbishop Carroll and Great Valley in the first round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament Friday night as a clash of styles.

But the numbers bear it out. Great Valley (20-7) has just a 4-4 record when opponents score 50 or more points this season. Carroll has scored 50 or more points in all but one game.

Better still, let Carroll (18-8) hit 60 points, and it boasts a 14-3 record.

So when the Patriots(es) meet Friday at Spring-Ford (7:30 p.m.), expect tempo to be the buzzword.

That might be bad news for Great Valley. Since a four-game winning streak, Carroll has won six of seven (the only loss to likely PIAA Class 3A champ Neumann-Goretti). Paul Romanczuk’s team has put the pieces together – see the dual blitzes of Bonner & Prendergast as to how quickly it puts opponents under serious pressure.

The desire to control tempo and play methodically is a difficult road to hoe. If Carroll gets rolling and on pace for a 55- or 60-point night, it’s hard for a slow-down team to put that genie back in the bottle.

Great Valley certainly can score, and it has the emotional benefit of revenge on Bishop Shanahan in the District 1 third-place game, avenging an unsightly 54-29 loss in the Ches-Mont semis.

GV is dangerous when it hits 3-pointers, and a young shooter like 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Alex Capitano can shift the balance when he gets going. Matt Porreca is a young but talented point guard, and there’s enough size with the likes of J.J. Long, Nate Graeff and Robert Geiss to keep Carroll honest (though not so much as to size Khari Williams and Devon Ferrero out of Romanczuk’s deep rotation).

Carroll, meanwhile, seems to improve every time out, in ability and mentality.

“You learn what kind of fight your team has, what kind of toughness,” Romanczuk said after beating Mastery Charter North in the win-or-go-home District 12 third-place game. “Do they want to battle the adversity of Mastery Charter, who had come in having lost only one game the entire year and are on a run, with their fans into it? You have to have some resiliency about you, especially at this time of the year. And I thought we did tonight.”

Keyon Butler has 17 points in his last two outings, providing a valuable bench spark. Colin Daly, though quiet against Mastery, averaged 11.6 points in his previous seven outings, the mark of a senior not wanting his ride to end. It’s been a while since Justin Anderson has taken over a game, but Williams can shoulder the load, and freshman point guard A.J. Hoggard progresses with every minute on the floor.

With a young, developing squad, Carroll might not have expected to be in position to rectify last year’s disappointing second-round exit. And with a westerly path seeming paved toward a quarterfinal date with District 3 champ Northeastern, it could accomplish that and more.

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