Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
HERSHEY Basketball was Courtland Schumacher’s first favorite sport. She made her final game count.
The Archbishop Carroll senior guard picked up a basketball in kindergarten and played travel ball with the Comets until high school, when she switched her club focus to field hockey, a decision which paid off in a Division I commitment to Sacred Heart.
That made the PIAA 6A girls’ championship game against Cedar Cliff the last she would play in an official capacity on the hardcourt, before turning her attention to the spring field hockey season and then to her college years. And she’ll be able to say she went out a winner, 43-37 the final.
Courtland Schumacher (3) celebrates Archbishop Carroll's 2023 6A championship win. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
“I know, I’m upset,” she said of it being her final basketball game, “but to end it on top like this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes me kind of sad that I’m never going to step out on the court again, but I’m happy for the team, this team especially, that we came out with the ‘W’ today.”
Carroll’s win was the first of the PIAA championships to go to a team from the Catholic League, as Neumann-Goretti’s boys lost in the 4A championship Thursday night. Lansdale Catholic (4A girls vs. Blackhawk), West Catholic (3A boys vs. Deer Lakes), Archbishop Wood (5A girls vs. South Fayette) and Roman Catholic (6A boys vs. Reading) will play at 12 PM, 2 PM, 6 PM and 8 PM tomorrow, respectively.
The Patriots’ first state championship in 11 years had Schumacher’s fingerprints all over it.
She got Carroll (16-11) off on the right foot, canning a 3-pointer on the Patriots’ first play. The next 30 minutes she spent focused on the defensive end, where the 5-foot-5 guard was often matched up against one of Cedar Cliff’s two 6-2 forwards, Alexis Buie and Kathryn Sansom.
The previously-unbeaten Colts won the rebounding battle 28-23 and took 16 more shots than the Patriots, but Carroll and Schumacher handled their physicality and seldom gave up easy looks under the bucket, making every post-up opportunity as difficult as possible.
“I know she was taller than me so I tried to front her sometimes, try to change it up, but I tried to force her middle so she doesn’t have that easy bank,” Schuacher said. “That was my game plan going into it, with the help of my coaches, they just told me what to do.”
Schumacher (above) opened the scoring for Carroll with a 3-pointer. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
“Courtland’s a very smart defender,” Carroll coach Renie Shields said. “She plays field hockey, she knows positioning, she knows angles. Playing against a big kid, she knew her time to kind of be physical and she knew her time to step off, and I thought she did it really well tonight.”
The Patriots’ senior guard isn’t their leading scorer — that’s usually either Taylor or Brooke Wilson, who combined for 22 points on Friday night, or freshman Alexis Eberz, who had 12 against Cedar Cliff. Instead, she and fellow senior Meg Sheridan are counted on to set screens, play defense, box out and rebound, to minimize mistakes and let the stars do their thing.
Friday night, they both did that to a ‘T,’ Schumacher just making a few more plays to help the Patriots seal the win.
“Her intensity on defense and her ability to create good shots [...] is phenomenal,” Taylor Wilson said. “She's such a team player and she does a great job bringing the team together and being such a great leader for everyone. She's a big reason why we won.”
It was down the stretch of the fourth quarter that the 5-foot-6 guard made her biggest offensive contributions. With two minutes to play and Cedar Cliff’s defensive intensity dialed up to ‘11,’ Schumacher dribbled around the half-court press and got downhill towards the bucket, feeding freshman Alexis Eberz for a layup to put them up four.
Schumacher added two crucial foul shots with under 30 seconds to play, putting Carroll up five against a Cedar Cliff squad that hit three 3s in the last 70 seconds to make things interesting down the stretch. She finished with seven points, three assists and two rebounds while playing every second.
“I’ve had trouble making my foul shots recently so I’ve just been really putting in the work, shooting 20 foul shots after practice and making it like second nature,” she said.
Perhaps it helped that she’s been in a state championship game — as a freshman on the field hockey team, where Carroll lost to Palmyra in overtime. The crowd of 1,800, slanted heavily towards Cedar Cliff, didn’t bother her in the slightest.
“I was used to the state championship atmosphere,” she said. “I know there’s a bunch of Cedar Cliff people because they live like 20 minutes away from here, so we just tried to keep it together as a team.”
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