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O'Hara girls overcome slow start, outlast Carroll in game with big implications

01/26/2023, 10:15pm EST
By Joseph Santoliquito

Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

SPRINGFIELD — It took the Cardinal O’Hara girls’ basketball team eight minutes and 18 seconds to score its first points Thursday night when the Lions hosted Archbishop Carroll in a critical Catholic League game.

Before that, the Lions were staring up at misery, down 15-0, missing their first seven shots, and seemingly on the verge of being blown out.

Yet something was happening on the O’Hara bench. The players were talking in whispered tones. ‘We’re not losing this game, we’re not losing this game,’ they repeated to one another.

Joanie Quinn (above, left) and Molly Rullo made sure O'Hara didn't get down after a slow start. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)

In one of the more remarkable comebacks in recent memory among these two rivals, O’Hara scratched back to win, 40-36, outscoring Carroll by 19 points in the final three quarters behind a team-high 17 points from talented sophomore Molly Rullo, nine coming in the fourth quarter, 12 from junior Joanie Quinn, including some clutch three-pointers and 7 from Carly Coleman, who grabbed a key rebound off a missed free throw with 15 seconds left to play to preserve the victory.

Carroll (8-11, 5-2 Catholic League) was led by the Wilson sisters; junior Brooke finished with a game-high 18 and sister Taylor, the West Point-bound senior, closed with 10.

This was a big game for both teams. Since O’Hara (13-3, 5-1 Catholic League) and Carroll are the only two PIAA Class 6A teams in the Catholic League, and the PIAA only guarantees one 6A team a spot in the state tournament, this one gives O'Hara a big boost towards locking in that automatic seed; Carroll would have to beat a Public League team in a play-in to secure the third and final seed out of District 12 6A.

“We were getting shots and we felt the shots would come, but I haven’t seen anything like this in the last couple of years,” Lions’ coach Chrissie Doogan said. “Joanie made a couple of shots in the first half that started us going, and I think I found out how tough this team is. They’re very next play. I thought Carly played a huge game for us, and she did whatever it took for us to win.

“I’m really happy with our girls and the effort they made. They’re really tough kids.”

Who looked beaten in the first eight minutes.

Carroll got out to a 15-0 lead on 4 of 12 shooting, while O’Hara had no cohesion whatsoever. Gradually, 15-0 became 26-18 by the middle of the third quarter on a third-pointer by Megan Rullo, Molly’s freshman sister. And Quinn made what was seemingly impossible very possible by nailing a three with 2.7 seconds left in the third, bringing O’Hara to within 28-27 entering the fourth quarter.

A Molly Rullo layup with 7:23 left to play gave the Lions their first lead, 29-28, which they would never relinquish.

“I’m not quite sure what was happening in the first quarter, we weren’t ready to play our game and they took us by surprise a little bit,” Molly Rullo said. “We woke up a little bit in the second quarter, and this was an eye-opener for us. We were all wondering what was going on in that first quarter. Once we started pressuring them, we started coming around.

“Joanie hit some big threes that started our comeback and Carly coming up with some big rebounds really got us going.”

With 1:30 to play, a Taylor Wilson three pulled Carroll to within 32-31, but that was the closest the Patriots would come.

“It was ugly, we didn’t score in the first quarter, but we weren’t down and none of us talked about losing,” Quinn said. “That was really tough against a really good team. We knew we were better than the way we were playing, and that started on defense. Our trap zone and denying the next pass led to the comeback.

“We took the hit and we learned shots aren’t going to fall sometimes, and we still had the attitude that we had to defend.”

Carroll left stunned. Patriots’ coach Renie Shields felt her team couldn’t respond to O’Hara’s pressure.

“We have to grow from adversity and I told my team we’ll bounce back from it,” Shields said.

Taylor Wilson said the stress in practice will be working on the pressure.

“We broke down and you saw how we could play in the first quarter, and we’re able to play like that,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t score in the second half and most of their points came off turnovers in our end. We can play every quarter like we played in the first quarter.”

By Quarter
Archbishop Carroll: 15  |   9   |   4   |   8   ||  36
Cardinal O’Hara:      0   |  12  |  15  |  13  ||  40

Carroll: Brooke Wilson 18, Taylor Wilson 10, Alexis Eberz 4, Meg Sheridan 2, James Brenner 11, Courtland Schumacher 2.

O’Hara: Molly Rullo 17, Joanie Quinn 12, Carly Coleman 7, Megan Rullo 4.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.

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