Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)
HERSHEY – It’s all about ‘team’ for the Wilson family.
On the court, it’s Archbishop Carroll’s accomplishments and never Brooke’s or Taylor’s, something the sisters will make sure anyone asking them knows. Off the court, it’s the family’s accomplishments and never Brooke’s or Taylor’s, and the sisters are quick to point out all that their parents Jen and Dave and brother Jake have done for them.
Brooke (L) and Taylor Wilson combined for 22 points in Carroll's PIAA 6A state championship win. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Friday night, team Wilson had a special moment together, the sisters finding their parents and brother in the stands of Hershey’s Giant Center for a family hug and the PIAA 6A championship trophy wedged in the middle of it.
“It wasn’t just me and Taylor,” Brooke said. “It’s my mom and dad continuing to push us hard. Me and Jake playing one-on-one, it’s a full team effort.
“It was Carroll as a team but also our family as a team.”
Brooke and Taylor’s last game together ended perfectly, the sisters getting it done as both ends to lead Carroll - remember, this is important - to a 43-37 win over previously unbeaten Cedar Cliff and bringing home the program’s first state title since 2012.
“My parents put so much of their effort and their energy into helping me and Brooke in any way possible and so does my brother,” Taylor said. “My dad coached us since we were in second grade, he taught me so much of what I know in basketball.
“They are the reason we are who we are today, I give all the credit to them and having that hug with them after a state championship, it means so much.”
FINAL: @Carroll_GBball 43, @CCLadyColts 37.— Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) March 24, 2023
Archbishop Carroll wins its first state title since 2012. pic.twitter.com/nf2STctGWV
Carroll’s win capped a remarkable state playoff run for a team that started 1-5, didn’t hit .500 until mid-January and never had a winning streak of more than two games until the state tournament. It’s funny now, but Brooke Wilson admitted it was extremely frustrating throughout the season when it looked like the Patriots were figuring it out on the practice courts, only to put on their game uniforms and seemingly forget every bit of it.
Both Taylor and Brooke said things just clicked for the team when the PIAA tournament started. The Patriots played a rigorous schedule, including games against Westtown, Perk Valley, two duels with Abington and Delco rival Cardinal O’Hara, a pair of games against 4A finalist Lansdale Catholic and one with 5A finalist Archbishop Wood.
Every one of them paid off on Friday, Carroll adopting coach Renie Shields’ mentality honed growing up facing the reality of win or get off the court and go wait your turn.
“You have to play hard, I grew up on the playgrounds as you know, and I don’t want to sit the next game, I want to play, so I want to do something about it,” Shields said. “That’s what I try to teach the girls at practice every day, you’ve got to get after it.”
Archbishop Carroll's players pose after winning the 2023 PIAA Class 6A championship. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Carroll scored the game’s first five points, none of them coming from Brooke or Taylor Wilson. In fact, neither of the sisters scored in the first half but they defended, as did Coutland Schumacher, Meg Sheridan, Alexis Eberz and Olivia Nardi - the only bench player to see minutes - and Cedar Cliff could only manage a 13-12 lead at the half.
Despite giving up size to the Colts, who took 16 more shots than the Patriots, Carroll rebounded well, pulling in 23 compared to 28 for Cedar Cliff. Colts coach Scott Weyant, who guided his team to a District 3 title and 30 straight wins coming into Friday, said the game played out as he expected.
“I knew it was going to be a defensive battle, on the boards they did a nice job not giving us second shots where we kind of lived on those for a while throughout the season,” Weyant said. “We had a couple mishaps there on assignments, gave them open looks but we didn’t hang our heads. We battled back and found a way to make it a game at the end.”
There might not have been a half this season, let alone the last three years, where Brooke and Taylor Wilson both finished without a point. That’s where they found themselves on Friday and in peak Brooke and Taylor Wilson fashion, they came in at halftime and wanted to talk about getting stops.
“Carroll scored,” Brooke said. “We focused on getting stops and focused on what plays we were going to run. I knew I could drive, not necessarily finish, but get on two feet and kick to Taylor. I think it happened on back to back plays in the third quarter.
Indeed, it did. Brooke and Taylor scored every point for their team in the third quarter, starting with Taylor going off-glass for a short hoop that gave the Patriots a 14-13 edge and a lead they would hold the rest of the way. Brooke followed with a three that rattled all the way around and in off a kick-out from Taylor for a four-point lead.
The Wilsons were perfect in the quarter, Taylor hitting 3-of-3 from the floor including two threes and both her foul shots while Brooke was 2-of-2, each assisting the other once.
“We push each other every day, the two of us are so competitive, obviously because we’re sisters. Her weaknesses are my strengths and my weaknesses are her strengths so it works out really well when we’re able to push each other in that way,” Taylor said. “Their defense was giving us different things Brooke was using a lot of her energy on defense and she was being pressured so much on the ball.”
Brooke Wilson drives while Cedar Cliff senior Taylor Ferraro (L) defends. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Brooke Wilson’s focus on team even found its way to the girls who didn’t get on the court. The junior guard raved about the group’s practices the last couple of weeks, emphasizing the fact that Carroll’s scout team beat the starters several times in scrimmages.
So even if they didn’t necessarily didn’t get on the floor, their impact was felt by those who were out there fighting for every missed shot or trying to beat every hedge and trap defensively.
“We only got six kids in and I know it’s tough, we’d like to play more than six kids. A game like that, possessions count,” Shields said. “It’s not like you’re scoring 60-70 points, you’re scoring 30-40 and every possession has to be valued. The kids who aren’t on the court tonight prepared us for this game.”
Taylor Wilson had a feeling early on that it was going to be her team’s night. The senior, off to continue her career at West Point next year, said the Patriots were playing “our perfect game,” noting the defensive intensity and the kind of shots they were getting.
The team’s other senior starters - Schumacher and Sheridan - are Division I athletes in field hockey and lacrosse respectively but their investment never waned, even throughout all the struggles during the season. Really, those two were an integral reason the Patriots even won the game on Friday.
Freshman guard Alexis Eberz (above) had 12 points and eight rebounds, including the game-sealing free-throws. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Schumacher had seven points, five before halftime, and two big assists giving Carroll another offensive outlet alongside Eberz, who tallied 12 points and eight rebounds. Sheridan had one of her best games in a Carroll uniform, with just two points, her always intense defense switching from guards to wings and posts without a hint of being tired.
Brooke Wilson noticed all of that, of course.
“It’s second nature these last four games. It wasn’t second nature to us the first 25 games and it showed,” Wilson said. “It was all worth it because we got to this point due to the fact it became second nature.”
Carroll didn’t give up on itself, even if it felt like there were times they wouldn’t put it all together and it paid off in the biggest way possible.
“We felt like a different team, everything came together at the perfect time and we knew it had to at some point. It was bound to happen, we worked so hard,” Taylor said. “I think we made every mistake possible we could have, got it all out of our system and learned from it. I see it as a blessing we were able to lose those games and learn from it because it paid off.”
The play of the game wasn’t a score or a pass, but a foul. More specifically, the charge Brooke Wilson drew against Cedar Cliff’s super sophomore Olivia Jones with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter, the fifth foul on Jones that ended her game early.
Wilson had a flashback of practice, assistant coach Mike Perreta backing her down and her taking the charge. She was only in position due to a switch made at a timeout just prior, the coaches opting to have Wilson - despite foul trouble of her own - switch back onto Jones after Sherdian had done her part defending the Colts guard.
“I take the charge, like, ok, this is my moment. If you saw my face, I was ecstatic,” Brooke said. “Olivia Jones is a fantastic player and the key of that team, just having her out, it might not have showed the way they kept hitting three after three after three but it messed up their rotation and their movement on offense and on defense and it takes a team out if it.”
The sisters yelled in each other’s faces at least twice - Taylor leaning over Brooke while she was still on the floor, again once Sheridan and Schumacher had hauled her to her feet and once more walking up the floor, Brooke’s continued noise prompting Taylor to turn around again in acknowledgement.
“It was insane. I don’t know if anyone saw my face or not, but I screamed so loud,” Taylor said. “I was so happy for her, that’s probably what won us the game in the end.”
Taylor Wilson said she and her sister acknowledged this was likely the end for them as teammates so they wanted to make the most of it, however long it lasted. Brooke is a future Division I player, she just hasn’t figured out where yet, but she knows she’ll never have a teammate quite like her older sister.
“She’s very hard on me, I think she’s my biggest coach after Mrs. Shields, Erin and all them. It’s not just a teammate, it’s my sister and I know she’s doing it because she cares about me and the betterment of the team,” Brooke said. “Something that Courtland or Megan wouldn’t say, Taylor will say to me and it helps me. She really knows what she's talking about, her IQ for the game is really high. She’s honest with me, sometimes it hurts but it helps me to get better.”
Taylor scored 12 and made her final shot, a layup off a hit-ahead pass by Eberz. Brooke had 10 and helped seal the win by making five of her seven free throws in the fourth quarter.
Friday was a win for Archbishop Carroll, one to hang alongside the banners from 2009 and 2012.
It was also a win for the Wilson family, not just Brooke and Taylor, but all of them.
“It’s going to keep sinking in for the next, however long I live, this is the greatest moment of my life,” Brooke said. “Winning it with my sister, with this team, it’s so special and we didn’t deserve anything else honestly.”
Arch. Carroll: 7 | 5 | 15 | 16 || 43
Cedar Cliff: 7 | 6 | 10 | 14 || 37
Arch. Carroll: 12-30 FG (5-11 3PT), 14-17 FT
Cedar Cliff: 14-46 FG (5-17 3PT), 4-10 FT
AC: Taylor Wilson 12, Alexis Eberz 12, Brooke Wilson 10, Courtland Schumacher 7, Megan Sheridan 2
CC: Olivia Jones 9, Taylor Ferraro 9, Ella Frey 8, Kathryn Sansom 5, Alexis Buie 3, Sydney Weyant 3
Tag(s): Home High School Andrew Robinson Girls HS Catholic League (G) Archbishop Carroll