Congratulations to Archbishop Carroll, who defeated Cedar Cliff 43-37 to bring home the PIAA 6A State Title - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Photos/Videos: Mike Nance & John Knebels
By: John Knebels
HERSHEY, PA – The epic mission successfully completed, the floating-on-air Archbishop Carroll girls’ basketball team gathered around various points of the Giant Center posing for pictures with teammates, family, friends, a large trophy, and an even larger chocolate bar.
The program’s third PIAA crown solidified, the Carroll players, coaches, and managers later boarded the bus and returned to Radnor. The noise of chatter, music, and singing reportedly deafening, the 90-minute-plus ride felt more like a quick walk around the block.
And . . . then what?
After a championship team accomplishes what Carroll did – a 43-37 win over previously undefeated Cedar Cliff in the PIAA Class 6A final on March 24 – what comes next?
A medium-to-lengthy hangover? Constant trips up and down Memory Lane? Is it simply on to the next big challenge? When the celebrating stops, is there any kind of a letdown?
“After the game on Friday, it was the best feeling ever,” said Carroll junior Brooke Wilson, one of four Patriots who played all 32 minutes and one of three who finished in double figures in points. “It was very fulfilling. To win the state championship, our last game, and to know that you couldn’t have gone any further is a very satisfying achievement.”
Upon returning home, Carroll was way too hyped to return to their respective homes. So the Wilson family housed a team sleepover.
“As soon as we walked in the door, we turned on the game to re-watch it,” said Wilson. “We gathered around and made comments, laughed, and smiled.”
Highlight-reel replays greeted the joyous Patriots.
Trailing at halftime by 13-12, Carroll stunned the defense-gifted District 3 champs with a 15-10 third quarter. Senior Taylor Wilson, having been blanked in the first half, tallied 11 of Carroll’s points, with the other four scored by sister Brooke.
Though resilient Cedar Cliff would ultimately cut a fourth-quarter, eight-point deficit to three inside the final minute, two free throws by Brooke Wilson with 14.3 seconds remaining put Carroll ahead by 41-37, and two more freebies by freshman Alexis Eberz eight seconds later added insurance.
Considering the Patriots began the season losing five of their initial six and finished fourth in a loaded Philadelphia Catholic League, ultimately perusing a five-win state championship run defied realism.
In the postseason, however, instead of barely losing close contests as they had through much of the regular season, the District 12 three-seed Patriots started finding all kinds of ways to survive against competition with better records and seeding.
Thoroughly drained but not complaining one iota, Carroll coach Renie Shields displayed more animation than usual while assessing one of the school’s most notable athletic triumphs.
Asked to rank the victory, she mentioned assisting the team while her daughters Kerri and Erin starred on the 2009 PCL squad that defeated rival Cardinal O’Hara in the semifinals and Archbishop Wood in the final. She briefly reminisced about the 2019 PCL overtime championship win over Archbishop Wood at the Palestra.
“But tonight? For this team to win? It’s really special,” said Shields. “I’m so happy for these kids. We harp upon the fundamentals constantly. Timing . . . spacing . . . and boxing out. And ya know what? They did it tonight. And they did it consistently. Give the tribute to the team and just what they’ve done.”
A 13-point win over Neshaminy . . . a 41-38 overtime win over District 1 champ, formerly 28-1 Perkiomen Valley . . . a 55-43 win over Abington . . . a 31-30 victory over PCL defending champion and District 12 top-seed Cardinal O’Hara that avenged two regular-season losses. Then defeating heavily favored Cedar Cliff in the final.
The metamorphosis helps explain the euphoria that continued through the next day . . . to the next week . . . and beyond.
“Waking up on Saturday morning, I was so happy,” said Brooke, who also contributed seven rebounds, five assists, and a steal while drawing nine foul calls. “I couldn’t stop smiling. Friday was one of the best days of my life. Not only did we win a state championship, but I had the most fun I ever had.”
Throughout the subsequent schooldays, Carroll’s players were still fielding congrats from peers, teachers, and administrators.
“Whenever I see by teammates in school, it’s always a very happy greeting,” said Brooke. “We are all still so excited and happy about the championship.
“Coming into school on Monday and hearing all the congratulations and support from the Carroll community was awesome. Everyone was so proud of us. I am just so, so happy and proud of our team. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face.”
Though spring season sports have commenced, the state title residue remains thick and hasn’t lost any of its sheen.
“Even today, over a week after, I still get so excited and happy whenever I think about it,” said Taylor Wilson, who next season will play basketball at Army and be joined by sister Brooke one year later. “I cannot explain how proud I am of everything we have accomplished, and it is something I will never forget and will always be my best high school basketball memory.”
Senior Meg Sheridan, who led the team in the plus-minus category with a plus-10, understands how to celebrate a state title.
Like teammate Brooke Wilson, Sheridan was a mainstay on last year’s Carroll state championship lacrosse juggernaut.
“I’m still in awe that we got to that point,” said Sheridan. “We put in so much work and it finally paid off. I’m so lucky to have the teammates I have and we still talk about it more than a week later. Our whole school supports us, and you can’t help but smile every day in class just thinking about the moment.”
Courtland Schumacher, who will play field hockey at Fairfield University next year, concurs.
“Just still, the feeling is so amazing,” she said. “I mean, just so incredibly proud of this team and how we were to overcome so much adversity this year. We were relentlessly resilient.
“When we went back to the Wilson’s and the game was on the TV, we talked about how amazing that experience was, and we couldn’t wrap our heads around that we just won a state championship. Our friends were all so supportive, and being in school and seeing everyone and the trophy, of course, is just so surreal.”
Being the youngest member of the team with three more seasons to look forward to, Eberz will notice that hardwood hundreds of times before she graduates.
“Seeing the trophy at school just means so much to my teammates and me,” said Eberz. “We’re just so happy for coach Renie and all of the other coaches for getting us to where we are today and helping us everyday get better. The trophy just goes to show how hard work really pays off.”
In the state final, Eberz belied her youth and assumed the role of a heady, steady veteran. She matched Taylor Wilson’s game-high point production with 12 (four three-pointers) while adding eight rebounds and an assist.
Regardless of age or playing time, the Patriots remain completely united when it comes to sharing the glory.
Archbishop Carroll senior Taylor Wilson #44, caps off final season with a state championship - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Archbishop Carroll head coach Renie Shields embraces junior Brooke Wilson - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
“My teammates and I still do not stop talking about the game,” said Eberz. “We were going over the game a couple days ago and we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that play,’ or going over what we could have done a little better but didn’t. We’re all just so proud of each other and how far we all have become as players.”
Eberz enjoys the still-present buzz.
“At school it is just so fun because everyone always brings it up,” she said. “Our staff at school is great. They are always calling us the ‘champs’ and everything, like no one stops talking about the game.”
It’s doubtful they ever will.
(Contact John Knebels at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @johnknebels.)