Jared Leveson (@jared _leveson)
BENSALEM — Alexis Eberz had mixed feelings after the Patriots’ PIAA 6A state tournament second-round overtime win over District 1 champions Perkiomen Valley last Tuesday.
The freshman had a difficult game on both ends of the floor and wanted to move on quickly. She didn’t want to hear from mom and dad — Michelle (Thornton) Eberz and Eric Eberz, who both played college hoops at Villanova — either.
“I was really frustrated after,” she said. “I like blew my family off a little bit. I was so mad. I was like, ‘Don't talk to me right now.’”
Even if they had, she had a feeling what they would say: Michelle and Eric give their daughter advice after games, often repeating the same two sentiments: “Play like it's your last game, and pretend that you’re not a freshman.”
Eberz internalized those words and put together a stellar performance against Abington in the PIAA 6A quarterfinals at Bensalem High School. Her 24-point scoring effort and Brooke and Taylor Wilson’s domination on the glass, helped the Patriots overcome eight first-half turnovers and a five-point halftime deficit.
Archbishop Carroll freshman Alexis Eberz scored 24 points on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Archbishop Carroll’s 55-43 win eliminated Abington on Friday, setting up a semi-final matchup with Catholic League rival Cardinal O’Hara on Monday, March 20.
Eberz went 7-of-14 from the field and 9-of-12 from the charity stripe. She also added five rebounds (two offensive) and one steal. The freshman standout got the bounce back performance she wanted and needed, but gave the credit to her teammates.
“My teammates are always there for me,” she said. “They hype me up and everything (and) that helped me a lot.”
“I knew I had to play better. As I was shooting earlier, I knew what I had to do today because (Abington is) a really great team.”
Ghosts’ head coach Dan Marsh has built a formidable program over the last 18 years. They never missed a district tournament, but they’re “snakebitten” in the state tournament. Abington has made a state tournament quarterfinal appearance five times since 2010, the last one coming in 2018, yet the Ghosts haven’t been able to get further.
“We do take pride in the fact that we’ve never missed districts,” Marsh said. “We’ve been in states a majority of the time that I’ve been here and you know, we do say that to our kids, that we want to continue that and make that run, but yeah it hurts, it hurts not being able to get past this round, and I don’t know what it is.”
Abington got off to a fast start in a rematch from December, which the Patriots won 48-44. The Ghosts spooked Carroll with a full-court pressure early on, which sped up the Patriots’ offense. The Ghosts’ defense forced eight first-half turnovers for Carroll.
Abington’s senior guard Abril Bowser contributed four steals and scored all seven of her points and led the defensive effort in the first half, which ended with Abington holding a 24-19 lead.
But Carroll responded as head coach Renie Shields’ squad got re-focused and flipped a switch in the second-half.
“We weren't playing how we usually played and we all knew that,” Brooke Wilson said. “We got ten minutes to reset, take a deep breath, and play our game and that’s what we did.”
Archbishop Carroll's Kate O'Neill (10) celebrates during the Patriots' PIAA quarterfinal win over Abington on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The Patriots went on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the second-half thanks to Eberz who had 11 points in the third quarter and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. Wilson and her older sister, Taylor (Army), combined for nine points in the third as well, outsourcing the Ghosts 21-8
“Every miscue that we made, they made us pay,” Marsh added. “Our kids fought, I’ve told them this a million times, if you guys ever go out there and leave it on the floor and get beat, we’ll never be upset, and you should never hang your head.
“They were better tonight, it’s really that simple.”
Carroll didn’t relinquish the lead once they took it. Even though Abington cut their deficit to four at one point, Bowser recorded her fourth foul with 1:33 left in the third and Marsh had no choice but to sit her out.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t pressure until they put the ball on the floor because we knew that we could make them uncomfortable, but that stretch with having Bowser out of the game really hurt,” he said.
The Wilson sisters kept possessions alive for Carroll and squashed any second chance opportunities that Abington may have had. Brooke and Taylor had 18 (seven offensive) and seven (one offensive) rebounds, respectively.
“Rebounding wins games,” Brooke Wilson, who scored 12 points, said. “I think it won the game for us tonight and our long possessions.”
Abington senior Cire Worley scored 24 points on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Eberz finished off many of Carroll’s drawn out possessions. She put the icing on the cake in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points and shooting 7-of-10 from the free throw line as the Patriots outscored the Ghosts 15-11 in the final frame.
“It’s really special,” Brooke Wilson said about Eberz’s performance. “I love watching her succeed and do really well.”
With Bowser out, even more weight shifted to senior Cire Worley (UMass-Lowell commit), who matched Eberz’s 24 points.
“We relied a lot on Cire and we didn’t get a lot of help from others,” Marsh said. “Cire’s a big part of what we do, and it’s almost like they let her get hers and shut everybody else down, and that’s kind of what happened.”
Worley, who finished her career as the leading scorer in Abington girls history, has been an integral part to Abington’s successful stretch these last few years taking the Ghosts farther and farther into the postseason each year, but never farther than the state quarterfinals.
“(She) is the best player that’s come through here,” Marsh added. “Not only has she broken every scoring record, she’s going to finish with about 1,800 points, she’s going to finish with the most 3s, but basketball-wise we improved every year.
“Her freshman year we lost in the first round of districts, her sophomore year we lost in the third round of districts, which we would have been in states but they only took (four teams), junior year we lost in the second round of states, senior year we lost in the third round of states.
“She made this program better and she made me better.”
Carroll, which didn’t advance past the second round last year, will meet bitter rival and defending PIAA 5A state champion Cardinal O’Hara in the 6A state semifinal.
O’Hara won the only meeting between the two this season back in late January, 40-36. But the Patriots are pumped for their state semifinal date with O’Hara, especially after missing out on a PCL title after losing in the semi’s to eventual champion Lansdale Catholic.
“If you heard us in the locker room, we are all really excited,” Brooke said. “We put in a lot of work in at practice and in the games. We knew from the start of the season what we’re capable of.”
“I’m so proud of everyone, and the coaches are so proud and we’re just lucky to keep going.”
“It's so fun,” Eberz added. “I love my teammates.”
Abington: 12 | 12 | 8 | 11 || 43
Archbishop Carroll: 11 | 8 | 21 | 15 || 55
Abington: Cire Worley 24, Abrile Bowsers 7, Piper McGinley 7, Maya Johnson 5
Archbishop Carroll: Alexis Eberz 24, Taylor Wilson 14, Brooke Wilson 12, Meg Sheridan 3, Courtland Schumaker 2
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