Affairs at Garden Spot High School went from comfortable to disastrous to predictably easy very quickly Friday night for Archbishop Carroll in its 57-35 win over Manheim Central. Let’s take a look at the peaks and valleys:
– I harp on it a lot, but it’s still pertinent: Carroll proved an ability Friday night to win when its star player, Derrick Jones, was a little beat up. They survived a first half in which they didn’t play all that well, didn’t shoot well from the line or the field and were susceptible to Manheim Central’s efforts to dictate tempo. On paper, Carroll was 20 points better than a team that, while it fought gamely, didn’t have anyone over 6-3 and started four juniors and a freshman. The results bore that out.
– Now to Jones specifically. He went down awkwardly with 1:25 left in the second quarter with a left hip injury that looked very, very bad. Like season-ending bad, and it happened right in front of our press table. He came back to score a game-high 15 points and look his usual dominant self at junctures in the second half. Then with under a minute left, while delivering a forceful block, he stepped on Austin Tilghman’s foot and turned his right ankle. That was causing more of a limp after the game than the hip issue. Those are two injuries that can feel drastically different after stiffening and swelling for a night, so it’s worth monitoring how those conditions change in the next day or so for his availability for Tuesday.
– Coach Paul Romanczuk talked about creating possessions. That seems like an abstract concept or empty coach speak until you realize that when the Barons got the ball with 5:49 left in the first quarter, it really looked like they were trying to hold for the last shot. Big credit to Joe Mostardi, Tilghman and Samir Taylor for getting their hands into passing lanes and pressuring the ball to force the 17 turnovers the Barons committed.
– When you look at the height differences out there, you had to realize that there was simply nothing that Manheim could do save foul to stop the Patriots from getting to the basket. Tilghman got there at will. Josh Sharkey did so in the second half and Taylor had a few good drives as well. The zone defense that was implemented out of necessity in the first half thanks to foul trouble was effective, forcing Carroll into a 1-for-11 day from 3-point range. But turnovers translate into transition offense, and that allowed Carroll to get moving.
– If Carroll wants to … oh let’s not kid ourselves, if they want to meet Neumann-Goretti in the semis … they need to learn how to beat the zone defense. To me, that means they need to find a way to involve Ernest Aflakpui. Aflakpui is never going to be the guy to his 16-footers in the soft spot of a 2-3 zone, and that’s fine. But Carroll has the length (either by Jones triggering the ball down low from the wing) or the driving ability (courtesy of Tilghman, Taylor, et al.) to get him the ball more, and I think he’s a more reliable plan of attack against the penetration-repelling zone than firing threes. For him to go the entire second half Friday without a field goal attempt with Jones hobbled and the opponents not offering a defensive option within six inches of his height is unfathomable.
– This must be said: I’m glad Manheim Central played basketball Friday. For a while, it looked like they weren’t going to, opting to try to play a game in the high teens. But they played it straight up. They just couldn’t find the space on the offensive end. They executed a few nice backdoor cuts and got both Dan Wiederrecht (11 points, nine in the second half) and Matt Walsh (10 points, seven in the second quarter) into double-figures. But you don’t pull an upset over one of the top teams in the draw by going 3-for-12 from 3-point range and 2-for-7 from the line. Still, they had a shot to tie the game in the second quarter, when an awkward-looking 3-point attempt from Taylor Funk rimmed out that would’ve tied the game at 16. If that bottoms out, then Jones gets hurt, you wonder what may have happened.