Justin Anderson (above) and Archbishop Carroll made the state playoffs for the 10th time in 10 years. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Before he let his team leave its locker room after Wednesday’s night‘s state play-in win against Mastery North, Archbishop Carroll head coach Paul Romanczuk had a question for his Patriots squad.
“I said to them, 'this is now 10 straight years we’ve been in the state playoffs,'” Romanczuk said. “Then I said, 'do you guys know how many years Archbishop Carroll’s been able to be in the state playoffs?' It’s not a trick question.”
After the hint from their head coach, the Patriots nailed the correct response.
With its 67-61 overtime win against the Pumas, Carroll locked up its 10th straight PIAA appearance since the Philadelphia Catholic League schools were allowed to compete in the tournament for the first time during the 2008-09 season.
“We’re 10-for-10 going to the state playoffs, and I do believe that’s something us as a program, us as a school should be very proud of,” Romanczuk said. “It didn’t always look like that was going to be the case. This was a very difficult year…We had to fight and claw and win some very difficult basketball games, and we did that.”
Last week, Mastery North fell to Imhotep in the Public League semifinals and Carroll lost to Bonner-Prendergast in the PCL semis. With Martin Luther King and Bonner already locking down two of District 12’s three Class 5A state bids, Wednesday night’s contest was a win-or-go-home situation.
Though both teams were playing with their seasons’ on the line, Mastery North was the squad with a sense of urgency out of the start. Guided by six points from senior forward Kareem Hicks and another six points from senior guard Harold Daily, the Pumas built up a double-digit lead in the first quarter and led 20-12 at the end of the period.
“We didn’t bring our best game, but credit Mastery Charter,” Romanczuk said. “They competed from the very beginning and that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re in an athletic competition is compete. Our guys, I don’t think brought that from the beginning.”
Carroll woke up a bit and took the lead in the second quarter, but a deep, deep three by Mastery North junior Jamir Reed at the buzzer gave the Pumas a 31-30 advantage at the break.
The third quarter also belonged to the Pumas. Daily scored seven of his game-high 17 points and Reed added five of his 14 points during that time as Mastery North led 48-40 entering the fourth.
After allowing 17 points in the first eight minutes of the second half, the Patriots knew they would have to lock down defensively in the final eight minutes.
“They were in attack mode the entire game, so it’s kind of hard to stop them,” Carroll senior Justin Anderson said.
“We had to play defense,” he added. “We had to get stops. What Mastery was doing is, we would score and then they would score…Once we started stopping them, and we started scoring, we knew we had the game.”
Anderson sparked the Patriots' comeback in the fourth. He knocked down a triple with 6:31 left in the game to cut the deficit to seven, 50-43. About a minute later, he knocked down another three to cut the lead to four. With 2:20 left in the fourth quarter, Anderson hit his third three to give Carroll its first lead of the second half.
After he was scoreless in the third quarter, Anderson finished with nine of his team-high 16 points in the fourth.
"I was thinking in my head, ‘This could be my last game,’” Anderson said. “That’s why I kind of played hard and made sure it wasn’t my last game.”
Mastery North went back up by two with a pair of free throws from Hicks and another foul shot from Reed with a little more than a minute left. A tip-in by Carroll's Devon Ferrero, his only points of the game, tied the game with less than 50 seconds left on the clock. Carroll ended up with the last shot, but couldn’t convert two decent looks, so the game headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Pumas, who had just seven players available, were clearly gassed. The 50-50 balls that went their way in the first half, started going to Carroll.
Patriots’ senior forward Keyon Butler grabbed a loose ball and took it the length of the court to put Carroll up 61-58 with a minute and a half left in OT. Luke House, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter or overtime, drilled a three with 44.1 seconds left and picked up a steal on the other end to close out the win.
“We had a lot of players that weren’t here due to some issues, and we had to play with what we had,” Mastery North coach Terrence Cook said. “I think my guys gave it their all. To take a team like that, a good disciplined team like Carroll into overtime, I think it was good. My team played hard, so that’s all I could ask them to do.”
Carroll, which entered the state tournament as District 12’s third seed a year ago, won two games before falling to Northeastern in the state quarterfinal last season.
They will start this year’s state playoff run next Friday, March 9.
“It was hard last year because we lost in overtime off some really weird stuff,” Anderson said. “This year, we just gotta play hard, play together and just play smart, and I think we can make it far.”