Amiri Stewart (above, in January) had 19 points as Carroll snapped a three-game PCL losing skid. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Carter Fillman (@JC_Fillman)
The Philadelphia Catholic League can be a brutal beast. It can be a quick turn around from playing a local power like Archbishop Ryan to a national powerhouse like Neumann Goretti or Roman Catholic.
With Archbishop Carroll in a spiral after dropping three straight, all it took was a text from a senior captain to coach Francis Bowe to get things back on track.
“[Amiri Stewart] texted me,” Bowe said. “It was refreshing and it was awesome, because you know I've been doing this now for about 13-14 years, how mature he was about it. A lot of seniors can say ‘screw this, I’m ready to go to college’... But he said, ‘coach we’re going to do something special, it’s not over yet.’”
And when Carroll needed something special, the senior captain delivered, scoring eight points in the final frame as the Patriots battled with and knocked off visiting Cardinal O’Hara 60-57. It was a much-needed victory for a team coming off a difficult loss to Archbishop Ryan.
“Archbishop Ryan was a tough one...the last three minutes we had the lead and then it just fell apart,” Bowe said. “We were in the same situation. We got the lead, they make a couple plays [to take the lead], and we’re like ‘Are we gonna learn?'
"We learned tonight.”
For a player in their senior year, that responsibility to lead a team to learn can fall on their shoulders especially in times of hardship. Stewart leans on last year’s captain Luke House’s (Cal U) leadership as something to emulate: “I just try to bring energy to the team, keep them hype for the game.”
Entering the fourth quarter and trailing visiting O’Hara 49-46, the Patriots needed that type of spark to avoid a fourth straight loss. Stewart instead delivered a lightning bolt, as the 6-foot-2 guard piled up four points, a pair a steals, a block, and an assist in the opening two minutes of the final frame to give Archbishop Carroll a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Patrios held O’Hara to 3-of-8 shooting and most importantly 2-of-6 from three in the final quarter, forcing a number of turnovers along the way.
“We finally locked in on defense,” offered Stewart. “We stuck to our principles, we played help defense, and it just kind of helped us lead the way to the win.”
For a team that is loaded with certified Division I talent like juniors Anquan Hill and John Camden, it is going back to these basics that can push a team over the edge as coach Bowe stressed: “the keys: Rebounds, put backs, finishes. I think that when you go back to the basics that’s gonna help us win games, because it’s the basics that’s killed us in these close games.”
This memo was evident as Carroll went on to snatch 28 rebounds (10 offensive) compared to O’Hara’s 20. These led to extra possessions and opportunities that surely resulted in more points for a Carroll team that had the major edge inside. Plenty of credit goes to 6-foot-7 senior forward Tairi Ketner (Bryant University) who consistently capitalized on these looks around the rim en route to 16 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive).
After a hot first quarter which saw Carroll take a 23-18 lead, both teams picked up the intensity on the defensive end to finish the game. And despite a hot shooting start from Cardinal O’Hara who hit five of their first six threes, Archbishop Carroll was able to weather the storm with 9 first quarter points from Anquan Hill.
With the win, Carroll moved a step closer to locking up a vitally important home game in the play-in round of the PCL playoffs; a win over St. Joe's Prep Friday would lock it in.
Looking ahead, Bowe preaches consistency for his team.
“What we do in the fourth quarter, like tonight, we do all three quarters. Because instead of a close game, maybe we can get a comfortable win for once," he said with a laugh. "But I’m just proud, it was all business tonight because of leaders like Amiri.”
Players of the Game
Amiri Stewart (19 points / 5 rebounds / 3 assists / 3 steals)
Stewart was a crucial kog for the Patriots in their win. The senior captain not typically known for his hot shooting went 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, pulling the trigger with a ton of confidence off the catch. Stewart also showed off some solid bounce with a huge fourth quarter slam off two feet that really got the crowd into it. His best sequence came early in the fourth with a pair of steals on back to back possessions, and then a stuffing of an O’Hara jumper which led to an easy Tairi Ketner lay in on the other end. The senior, whose father Terrence Stewart is the head coach at D-II Georgian Court (N.J.) picked up an offer from D-II Wilmington University after the game.
Solo Bombara (14 points / 9 rebounds)
I’m not sure I’ve seen a player make more in-season strides than Bombara has for O’Hara. Originally more of an around-the-basket type player, Solo has opened up his game in the latter part of the season. His shot from beyond the arc is really coming together and he is becoming far more comfortable letting it loose. The 6-foot-5 junior has improved finishing around the rim, and the energy he brings on both sides of the ball has not wavered at all. Against Carroll he put together a solid all around game hitting a three, slashing to the rim, and throwing down a lob from Ant Purnell. Bombara will be a critical piece for the rest of the season for O’Hara, especially as fellow junior big man Jax Trickey missed this one in a boot.
Carroll: 23 | 8 | 15 | 14 | 60
O’Hara: 18 | 12 | 19 | 8 | 57
Carroll: 24-46 FG, 5-14 3PT, 7-11 FT
O’Hara: 23-54 FG, 8-22 3PT, 3-9 FT
Carroll: Stewart 19, Ketner 16, Hill 13, Camden 7, Carter 5
O’Hara: Dinkins 18, Irving 16, Bombara 14, Reeves 5, Purnell 2, Kortue 2