When you have a young team, senior leadership can be vital to a team's success. All season long, the seniors have helped pass the message that playing as a team will be rewarded. On Wednesday night at Archbishop Ryan High School, the Patriots delivered a complete team performance in its 74-36 win over Public League representative Northeast High School to win the District 12 championship.
With the win, Carroll enters the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs as the district 12 champion and will open up play on Friday March 7 against the winner of the Methacton-Garnet Valley contest.
"Winning the district 12 title means a lot,' said senior Cara Santoleri, who finished with seven points, five rebounds and three steals. "This will give us a big boost mentally as we get ready for the state playoffs.'
"This title means a lot to us as a team especially our seniors,' said coach Chuck Creighton. "They gave up playing time at times and as seniors that is always easy to do. They each give us something different. They handled it like seniors and were leaders.'
The Patriots got out of the gates early building a 20-7 first quarter lead thanks in large part to the play of sophomore point guard Keara McNulty, who scored 13 points, dished out three assists, grabbed four rebounds and added two steals in the first quarter. For her efforts, she was named game MVP. Lexi Stover added 15 points.
"Without Kiera we probably would not have jumped out to the early lead,' said Santoleri. "She sparked the beginning of the game for us.'
Creighton added, "She (McNulty) understood what we wanted to do defensively. She also found open spots, knocked down some open jump shots and did the little things we needed. She played a great game as a true point guard.'
"As a team we all understand we have to work together to be successful,' McNulty said. "We have to do the little things like rebounding and box out. Everyone understands and we helped each other out like we have done all year.'
Throughout the season the senior class - Santoleri, Maddie Wallace, Jackie Carney and MJ Valeri, who transferred in this year-have set the tone making sure everyone is mentally and physically prepared for the toll of a difficult season. Anther responsibility is ensuring a strong team chemistry.
"The seniors did a great job instilling the message that we are mentally and physically ready,' said McNulty. "We definitely had some rough patches but the seniors were great in not letting us stray from our focus.'
Throughout the season the team grew together and it showed as the Patriots earned hard fought Catholic League wins over Cardinal O'Hara, Ryan and Lansdale Catholic to help them earn a spot in the District 12 title tilt. The Patriots also won a tough non-league game over perennial power Bethlehem Catholic. In wins over Bethlehem Catholic and Ryan it was junior Julia Gantz, who hit game-winning free throws in both games.
With a district title in hand, Carroll believes this will give them confidence moving forward into state tournament play.