NEW HOLLAND — One of Delaware County’s top scorers over the last two seasons was struggling to make shots Wednesday night.
Archbishop Carroll junior Erin Sweeney had three points on 1 of 9 shooting from the floor at halftime of a PIAA Class 5A tournament second-round game. Sweeney made a basket and two free throws in the third quarter, but Wednesday’s game remained a rare “off” day for Sweeney.
To count her out would’ve been foolish, though.
Sweeney’s performance down the stretch was pivotal to Carroll’s 42-31 victory over Gettysburg Area High.
The Patriots (22-5) advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals Saturday to face Archbishop Wood in a rematch of last month’s Catholic League final.
When Carroll desperately needed Sweeney Wednesday at Garden Spot High School, she converted a three-point play to give the Patriots a five-point advantage. With the field goal, Sweeney had eclipsed the 1,000-point mark.
And no one knew, except for the Carroll coaching staff.
“I had no idea,” Sweeney said.
“Oh, we didn’t know,” senior teammate Harlem Jennings added.
Maybe that was a good thing. There was no need for the Patriots to have anything else on their minds, especially when up against a plucky team like Gettysburg, which made things interesting for four quarters. Aiding Gettysburg was the fact the Patriots consistently bricked shots — it wasn’t just Sweeney’s problem — save for Jennings, who was 6-for-9 from the floor through the first three quarters while everyone else on the Patriots shot 6-for-29.
Carroll (22-5) relied on its press defense to jumpstart a stagnant offense. Freshman guard Grace O’Neill was the X-factor, as she came up with four steals in the final period.
“I know if we keep the energy up on defense, our offense will eventually come,” said Sweeney, who tallied nine of her 16 points in the final period. “Our defense is really key for us.”
Jennings excelled in all areas for three quarters. While Sweeney stepped up in the fourth quarter, it was Jennings’ dynamic offensive play in the first three periods that enabled the Patriots to stay ahead of the Warriors.
“The mindset of the entire team is to play together,” said Jennings, who scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds, made three steals and handed out two assists. “We play a help defense, so if they get past you, that’s OK. That’s our most important goal, and with our press, it’s been working so well for us the entire year, we work on it every single day. We keep sticking with it and it keeps getting better.”
Carroll forced 19 Gettysburg turnovers, including seven in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Anne Bair (13 points) and junior forward Taylor Richardson (seven points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) were problematic at times, but the Warriors couldn’t overcome Carroll’s skill and defensive prowess.
And now the Patriots are three wins away from the program’s third PIAA title.
“We weren’t making shots, but we were keeping up the intensity,” Carroll coach Renie Shields said. “Our defense held strong in the end and we got the stops that we needed to come away with the win.”