CONCORD — Taylor Wilson cleared her mind as she went to the free-throw line with 5.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter Monday night.
With Archbishop Carroll trailing Cardinal O’Hara by one point, Wilson did not even consider what happened moments earlier when she attempted two freebies. She had made the first, but missed the second.
“I was thinking, this is just like practice,” said the senior forward. “Put them in the basket. That’s it. I shoot foul shots every day, it’s the easiest shot in the game. Free points. Just put them in.”
Wilson swished both foul shots to propel Carroll to a 31-30 victory in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal at Garnet Valley. Carly Coleman’s last-ditch effort to win the game for O’Hara as time expired was off the mark.
Carroll will play District 3 champion Cedar Cliff for the PIAA Class 6A title Friday, 6 p.m. at the Giant Center. Cedar Cliff defeated District 7’s Norwin in overtime, 55-47, in the other semifinal Monday.
Carroll and O’Hara was a chaotic showdown of the top teams in Delco, a game that at times was overshadowed by questionable-at-best officiating. Three District 12 officials were tasked with working a state semifinal between two of Pennsylvania’s elite girls basketball programs. There were far too many ticky-tack fouls and confusion as to who picked up which fouls. O’Hara’s bench was livid, arguing calls and non-calls most of the evening. O’Hara’s best players, junior Joanie Quinn and sophomore Molly Rullo, eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The game was decided at the free-throw line. Rullo put the Lions ahead, 30-28, with 35.6 seconds to go. Freshman Megan Rullo got a steal and dished to her sister Molly breaking to the basket. Molly was fouled and made two freebies to give O’Hara the lead. Moments later, Wilson was hacked and hit one free throw. Courtland Schumacher grabbed an offensive rebound to ensure Carroll maintained possession. After a Carroll timeout, Coleman forced a turnover and Molly Rullo was fouled with 16.2 seconds left. This time Rullo missed, giving the Patriots one last chance to win it. Wilson started to drive inside the paint when she was fouled by Molly Rullo.
Both teams played extremely well on defense. O’Hara scored no more than eight points in a quarter and Carroll was held to four points in the fourth on zero field goals. Junior Brooke Wilson, Taylor’s sister, was incredible all game. She scored a game-high 16 points, including nine in the second period when Carroll outscored O’Hara, 16-8, to take a 20-16 lead into halftime. Brooke Wilson also registered game highs in rebounds (nine) and steals (three).
In the teams’ previous meeting in the regular season, Carroll held a 15-0 lead after one quarter, but O’Hara rallied all the way back to win 40-36. Carroll (16-13) has clearly become a more resilient team since that game in late January.
“We wanted to win, we wanted it more than them,” Brooke Wilson said. “Each of us can probably name all of their plays since we play each other so much and it’s Carroll and O’Hara. We probably have so many similar plays, but whoever brings the most heart on the court and whoever brings the most energy is the team that will most likely win.”
O’Hara and Carroll were like two prizefighters feeling each other out in the first quarter. The Lions led 8-4 after eight minutes, but Brooke and Taylor Wilson, who combined for 28 of Carroll’s 31 points, each scored a basket to tie things up. The Patriots held a 20-14 advantage in the final seconds of the first half, but in the waning seconds Quinn drove to the basket to make it a four-point O’Hara deficit at the break.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. I told my kids that you’re going to have to be happy winning 35-30. That’s what we said at halftime,” O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan said. “We said it’s not going to be a 62-40 game, it’s going to be in the 30s and it’s going to be a grind- it-out type of game and you’re going to have to be OK with that. They responded like they’ve done all year. I thought we defended them really well, especially in that second half. It’s just a shame.”
Trailing by five points after three quarters, the Lions eventually pulled even at 27-27 when Megan Rullo sank her second 3-pointer of the night. Wilson made a free throw on Carroll’s next possession and the score held at 28-27 for quite some time. Molly Rullo hit a freebie to tie it at 28-28.
Taylor Wilson had 12 points, two blocks and a steal for the Patriots. Schumacher added three points, three rebounds and a steal. Molly Rullo finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, a steal and one block to pace O’Hara. Quinn added six points.
Carroll is chasing its third PIAA title. The Patriots’ last appearance in Hershey came in 2019 when they fell to Chartiers Valley in the Class 5A final. O’Hara was looking to claim a third consecutive PIAA championship after winning the Class 5A trophy in each of the last two seasons.
“We know each other so well. Chrissie and I respect what we do and this was a real fight to the end,” Carroll coach Renie Shields said. “Basically I was imploring our kids just to gut it out and that’s what they did in the end. A win’s a win and we’ll take it.”