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Archbishop Carroll uses unexpected second chance to advance to state playoffs

03/17/2021, 9:45am EDT
By Matthew Ryan + Josh Verlin

Anquan Hill (above, in Feb.) had 25 points as Archbishop Carroll advanced to the PIAA Class 4A state tournament. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Matthew Ryan (@MatthewRyan247) &
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Archbishop Carroll assumed its season would be ending early.

After losing to Devon Prep on Feb. 6, the Archbishop Carroll players were “devastated,” according to head coach Francis Bowe. At the time, with the Philadelphia Catholic League only planning on a two-team playoff, three early-February losses were going to be too much to overcome, with powerhouses like Archbishop Wood, Neumann-Goretti and Roman Catholic all but guaranteed to survive the 14-game slate with only a defeat or two. 

The state playoffs seemed like an even longer shot, with only one 4A team from the Catholic League getting a chance to play for a state bid, and Neumann-Goretti playing up in the classification this year after previously dominating at the 3A level.

“Kudos to (the players) because they didn’t make it seem like every practice it was over. They came in, they worked hard, they gave it everything they got,” Bowe said.

But in practice just a few days before what Carroll thought was their season finale against Conwell-Egan, Bowe broke the news: their season was still alive. Due to the top 4A team in the Philadelphia Catholic League standings, Neumann-Goretti, being on a COVID pause, Carroll was next up for the District 12 4A Championship. Despite missing out on the Catholic League’s playoffs, the Patriots’ season had a second life.

“I think we celebrated for like two minutes straight,” Bowe said, “and I was like, ‘Okay, now we’ve got to get ready.”

“We were hyped, and then we just were locked in ever since,” senior Caleb Carter said. “It was a switch, and I liked to see it, and I’d like to keep it going.”

According to Carter, getting a second chance “just doesn’t happen by accident. You take the chances that are given to you, and you capitalize on them.”

As exciting and surprising as Carroll advancing to the District 12 4A title game was, Carroll still had to take care of business in the game against Martin Luther King to advance to the state playoffs.

The Patriots, who were 8-6 overall and 7-5 in Philadelphia Catholic League play going into their matchup against MLK, took their lumps in an always-deep PCL, beating a top-four finisher in Archbishop Ryan but otherwise beating the teams below them and losing to the top half of the league.

In their matchup against MLK on Tuesday night, just about one week after Carroll found out their season was still alive, the Patriots dominated, winning 85-70 and advancing to the state playoffs for the second time in Bowe’s three seasons.

“Our shots were falling, we were playing like a team, we were running through our sets, everything was clicking for us,” said Carter, who had 17 points.

Carroll freshman Moses Hipps (above, in Feb.), fresh off his first D-I offer from La Salle, had 19 points including three 3-pointers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Patriots were led in the scoring column by 6-foot-9 senior forward Anquan Hill who had 25 points. Hill dominated: blocking shots, throwing down a dunk, and even stepping outside and knocking down a few threes. Hill currently has offers from Division I programs such as Drexel, St. Josephs, Bowling Green, and Mount Saint Mary’s.

Getting the opportunity to continue playing meant a lot to Hill, who said “it feels great, especially because I’ve never made it this far (in) feels great to get another chance.”

Against MLK, freshman Moses Hipps, who currently has an offer from La Salle, was the second leading scorer for the Patriots with 19 points, showing his range, knocking down three 3-pointers.

Hipps was ecstatic his team got another shot at the postseason because that meant that his senior teammates get a shot to win a state title and “leave their legacy on our school.”

The Patriots are looking to win their first state title since 2009, when Juan’ya Green, D.J. Irving and Kasheef Festus starred for Carroll as they defeated Greensburg Salem 75-54 in the state title game under head coach Paul Romanczuk.

This opportunity to play in the state tournament is one that Hipps is very thankful for. 

“I just make sure I don’t take it for granted because a lot of teams, and a lot of my friends, they’re not playing anymore,” the freshman said. “They don’t even have states and stuff like that so you just can’t take it for granted and it’s just a blessing, honestly, getting this opportunity.”

Although the team and coaches are excited about getting this second chance, they want to make the most of it. The Patriots take on Allentown Central Catholic on Friday and currently sit just three wins away from hoisting another championship trophy.

“We’re going to make sure we do everything to represent the catholic league throughout the state tournament,” Bowe said. “I don’t want the run to end. I’m looking forward to Friday.”

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