Archbishop Carroll varsity girls' basketball team - 2019 PIAA 5A State Champion Runner-Ups - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
By: John Knebels
Photos: Patty Morgan
HERSHEY, PA – Regardless of the unpleasantness, the three upperclassmen had one last task.
Standing side by side in the bowels of the Giant Center, Archbishop Carroll seniors Mary deSimone, Bridget Hislop, and Harlem Jennings were asked to take a few minutes to summarize their emotions. True senior leadership knows no bounds.
“Give us a minute to look a little more presentable,” kidded one, finding some comic relief in the overall disappointment. “Totally kidding. Let’s do this.”
Minutes earlier, the Patriots’ season had come to an unceremonious end. The 53-40 loss to undefeated Chartiers Valley, the District 7 champ from near Pittsburgh, in the PIAA Class 5A state championship was undistinguished and frustrating on numerous levels.
However, a season that included the Catholic League championship, a 25-6 record, and a state championship loss to a Colts’ team that finished 30-0 will be remembered for decades.
“This was a really tough loss,” said Jennings. “Getting this far this year was just so awesome.”
The Carroll defeat wasn’t based on what the Patriots couldn’t do as much as what Chartiers Valley could do. The Colts outrebounded the Patriots, 32-18, shot significantly better from the field (18 of 32 compared to 13 of 45), and moved the ball with more efficiency (13 assists to six).
Characteristically, Carroll was lights out from the foul line (nine for nine), and they forced 14 turnovers to just nine. But Chartiers Valley was firing on all cylinders.
“We knew how good they were,” said Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell, the father of Philadelphia 76ers reserve guard TJ McConnell. “We knew how well they handled the ball and how well they shot the ball and how well they shot foul shots.
“It would have been very difficult for us in the fourth quarter if they were leading us because if we had to foul them, they don’t miss foul shots.”
McConnell said his players realized that their perfect season was very much at risk.
“We watched tape on them,” said McConnell. “Our girls knew that this was a very good basketball team and we had to come ready to play. They were well coached. They ran a good offense and good screens. We knew how good they were. There was no taking this team lightly.”
In a rugged Catholic League that placed eight qualifiers in the state tourney, the Patriots will be strong again next year behind first-team All-Catholic Erin Sweeney, whose season ended with a team-high 19 points, three steals, and four rebounds in a few seconds shy of the full 32 minutes. Freshman standout Grace O’Neill and junior Hope Syron will be returning starters, as will be top sub sophomore Karli Dougherty.
Those players, said Carroll coach Renie Shields, will benefit from the graduating trio’s legacy.
“The three seniors set a great example for our kids,” said Shields. “They come to practice every day wanting to get better. They show the younger kids how you work hard and how to get to business right away.
“That leadership is so strong, and it’s not that they’re vocal about it. It’s just what they do. They were a great group of seniors. We had a great group last year and this group just followed that example. They kept leading our juniors, our sophomores, and our freshmen.”
deSimone said the Patriots would not dwell on one negative result.
2019 PIAA 5A State Championship Gallery - Photos by Patty Morgan
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“We were great all season and we are happy we made it this far,” she said. “We are going to walk together forever.”
Hislop said the Pats would most remember winning the Catholic League championship in a “super competitive league” and “all the friendships we made on our team and the way we bonded.”
Jennings praised Carroll’s coaches as “the best. We appreciate everything that they did for us . . . we’re just blessed.”
One last piece of advice for next year’s troops?
“Just enjoy it,” said deSimone. “Honestly, it comes so quick. You don’t even realize it’s gonna end, and then it does.”
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)