Archbishop Carroll was ahead by three and hanging by a thread. Archbishop Wood senior Alex Heck drove through the lane and scored untouched to put her team down by one with 22.3 seconds remaining in overtime.
A timeout was called and both teams jogged toward their respective benches. Junior Sarah Curran, the defender who had allowed the previous basket, had a message for her teammates.
“That was my fault,” she said.
While arguably true, it spoke volumes for Curran’s maturity. And it also explained why Curran was the most excited player on the court after Carroll survived an incredibly tantalizing 40-38 Catholic League championship victory Feb. 27 at the Palestra.
While the Patriots cut down the net in winning their third championship in four seasons and four in the past six, Carroll coach Chuck Creighton talked about how his players strongly advocate personal accountability, Curran’s mea culpa presenting a prime example.
“We play as a team,” Creighton said. “You can score 20 or score three. There are a lot of ways to contribute. We gutted this one out. We knew it was going to be really hard.”
Indeed. The Pats (23-2) were playing a Wood squad (15-10) that had shocked previously undefeated-in-the-league Cardinal O’Hara in the semifinals. So in trying to defend their 2011 title highlighted by a game-winning shot by current senior Taylor Kaminski with five seconds left, it could be argued that the Vikings were particularly dangerous because few expected them to pull off another monumental upset against the team they had defeated in last year’s final in eerily similar conditions.
Asked ad nauseam by a reporter to what extent he had discussed with his team Carroll’s gut-wrenching loss to Wood in last year’s final, Creighton admitted that the thought obviously crossed his team’s mind but not to the extent that some might have hoped to hear.
“This year’s team battled,” he said. “I am really proud of each of them. I made some coaching mistakes late in the game but thankfully we were able to overcome them.”
Offsetting Kaminski’s 11 points and spirited play by freshman Aubrey Brown (two clutch three-point shots in the fourth quarter), Carroll seized a 13-4 lead after the first quarter and then withstood a strong second quarter by the Vikings, culminated by a three-pointer at the buzzer by sophomore Jess Kaminski (Taylor’s sister) to make it 22-20 at halftime.
The second half was like a Rocky Balboa-Apollo Creed movie montage, both teams landing punches and then retreating to receive some in return. That the contest went into overtime seemed appropriate.
Asked to describe her feelings after delivering eight points and nine rebounds, Curran said she was simultaneously “thrilled” to not only win a championship, but to have another year to defend it. She was also “relieved” that her aforementioned rare defensive lapse didn’t prove to be fatal.
“We recognize that this is a team game and every player is important,” said the graduate of Media’s Nativity B.V.M. Grade School. “I felt bad about it and they knew it, but they picked me up.”
Along with senior Rachel Pearson (seven rebounds, five points, key blocked shot in overtime), those who rose to the occasion included senior Meghan Creighton, a superb guard — and daughter of the head coach — who had missed six games with mononucleosis but was able to help abundantly in the postseason.
Of her team-high 16 points, three were scored from the foul line in the four-minute overtime. But she could not relax until a desperate three-point launch from center court by Wood’s Jackie Pierson skimmed the rim at the buzzer, sending the Patriots to an impromptu hugging session serenaded by their fans’ boisterous applause.
“I had a flashback to last year on that final shot,” said the Drexel University-bound Creighton. “I was praying a little bit.”
God was obviously in a tough spot, because Archbishop Wood was simultaneously praying for something totally different.
“We know what they are feeling over there,” said Coach Creighton. “We’ve been there.”
Not on this night.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103