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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Archbishop Carroll Topples Rival Cardinal O'Hara in PCL Semifinal; Awaits Archbishop Wood in Final

By John Knebels, 02/25/24, 2:00PM EST


(Photos by Krystal Williams)


By John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – They came back from a huge deficit in the quarterfinals. Five nights later, they nearly surrendered an enormous lead in the semifinals.

Common denominator? They won both games.

When Archbishop Carroll tips off against Archbishop Wood in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship 6 PM Monday at the Palestra, the Patriots won’t be searching for self-confidence. Of that, they have plenty, and for good reason.

“Getting to the Palestra is an accomplishment in itself,” said senior Brooke Wilson, this year’s PCL Most Valuable Player. “However, it wasn’t our goal this year.”

Nope. Despite a 9-2 record and a three-seed in the regular season, a 35-33 quarterfinal win over visiting six-seed and defending champion Lansdale Catholic in which they trailed 12-0 and 19-5 before winning dramatically on a last-second basket by up-and-coming freshman Abby McFillin, and Tuesday night’s 45-38 semifinal victory over two-seed rival Cardinal O’Hara at the University City campus of St. Joseph's University that began with a 15-0 lead and somehow dwindled to a three-point edge late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots will consider the PCL season a major disappointment if they can’t finish the job against undefeated Archbishop Wood.

That’s part of the deal that annually challenges a program that will be competing in the championship for the 22nd time, has an all-time record of 10-11 in the final, and has captured eight PCL championships since 2000.

“We celebrated and got all the emotions out Tuesday night and then got back to work on Wednesday,” said Wilson, who, despite being plagued with early fouls and picking up a questionable fourth tweet late in the third quarter, corralled eight points, five rebounds, and four assists that all seemed to come in clutch moments. "We all know that we aren’t done yet and we didn’t get this far to get this far. So just having that attitude in practice and staying focused will allow us to be prepared.” 

Archbishop Carroll vs. Cardinal O'Hara PCL Semifinal game. St. Joseph's University. (Highlights by John Knebels for PSD)

Sophomore standout Alexis Eberz, who led the Patriots with 13 points and scored in every quarter, echoed Wilson’s sentiments.

“Getting to the finals is a huge accomplishment and we can’t take it for granted,” said Eberz. “We are beyond proud of one another and so happy with the win, but it’s ‘go-time’ on Monday. All of us playing as a team and trusting each other will be big goals for this game. Getting to the finals is not easy at all, but we are all so determined to win and bring this home.”

It’s almost a shame that Carroll wasn’t able to celebrate ending the PCL season after the crazy win over O’Hara, a program that owns a 6-3 record against Carroll in PCL finals.

Although this was “only” a semifinal, the pace of the game represented the passionate rivalry that usually ends in the semis or finals, with most results hanging in the balance until the final minutes.

Aided by the McFillin sisters (senior Felicity, junior Maddie, and aforementioned freshman Abby combined to score 18 points), Carroll sped to a shocking 15-0 lead and increased its dominance to 28-8 at halftime, yielding only three baskets and two free throws. The Patriots’ turnover-laden third quarter allowed O’Hara to outscore Carroll by 17-4 in the third quarter. Composite offense by senior Joanie Quinn (17 points), junior Molly Rullo (11), and senior Carly Coleman (seven) pulled the Lions to within 35-32 late in the fourth.

Brooke Wilson Once again Helped Lead Archbishop carrroll to a playoff win. (video/John Knebels for PSD)

Archbishop Carroll's Alexis Eberz can't wait to get to the Palestra. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

With momentum having completely swung toward O’Hara, Wilson came to the rescue with two quick buckets. Carroll clinched its second trip to the PCL final in three years with six free throws in 10 attempts.

“It was another great learning experience for us,” said Wilson. “It showed how great we can be in the first half sharing the ball on offense and executing on defense. The second half showed the importance of taking care of the ball. However, it showed us what we need to work on and figure out for Monday.”

In their earlier bout with Wood on Jan. 20, the Patriots led by double digits in the fourth quarter before a dreadful 51-46 loss. Ball control issues had turned a sure win into a Carroll defeat, and Archbishop Wood ended up running the table for an 11-0 record and a 14th trip to the PCL final in 16 years.

If history supplies optimism, Carroll has dominated Wood in the finals, winning five of six since 2007, with the two most recent – in 2012 and 2019 – necessitating overtime.

Carroll coach Renie Shields will be making her third Palestra appearance as head coach, having won a title against Wood in 2019 and losing to O’Hara in 2022. With Shields as an assistant at Carroll since the 2007-08 season, the Patriots won in 2009 (over Wood), 2010 (Wood), and 2012 (Wood), and lost in 2008 (O’Hara) and 2011 (Wood).

All of those games were played at the Palestra.

“Going to the Palestra is so special for so many reasons,” said Shields. “Playing in what many consider ‘the cathedral of basketball’ and being in a PCL final game.”

Certainly, the veteran coach and player of more than three decades at every level has been around far too long to still experience a case of the jitters.

Think again.

“Being nervous,” said Shields, “started the minute I realized we were going to the final game.”


(Contact John Knebels at of on X (formerly Twitter) @johnknebels.)