NEW HOLLAND — Just 14 minutes, 35 seconds into their quest for a state title, it all could've gone up in smoke for Archbishop Carroll, in one Derrick Jones-shaped heap on the court.
But while Jones recovered briefly on the sidelines, his supporting cast made sure the Patriots would be on the right side of the ledger, both when he returned and at the end of their opening-round PIAA Class AAA game.
The Patriots got contributions up and down their nine-man rotation, weathering some time on the sidelines for their star forward as Carroll earned a 57-35 win over Manheim Central at Garden Spot High School Friday night.
With 1:25 left in the second quarter, Jones landed awkwardly, his left leg caught under his body as he went to the basket and was fouled by the Barons' Tony Staffieri. After writhing in pain briefly on the deck, Jones walked gingerly to the locker room, clutching his left hip and inducing a brief wave of panic in coach Paul Romanczuk.
"I don't even know if that's quotable," Romanczuk said of his reaction. "'Oh, snap,' I guess I'll say. It's tough. He does so much for our team. But first you're worried about him. 'Is he OK?' That's the first thing that goes through your mind."
There was no panic in his team, though. To the line in Jones' stead stepped Armand Sorrentino, who canned both free throws to help send Carroll into the half with a 24-15 lead.
That was one of many contributions by Sorrentino, who's played sparingly down the stretch but had six points Friday. And the list of players at the ready to replace Jones' contributions was lengthy.
"Obviously we were all upset because he's one of our best players, but it's just time to step up," Sorrentino said. "Once he goes down, everyone kind of molds together and everyone had to do a little bit more every single time. Without him, we aren't as good of a team individually, but together we can be just as good. And I think everyone stepped up and played better when he had to take some time off."
Throughout the first half, a bevy of Patriots (22-5) helped counter the Barons' slowdown tactics. Joe Mostardi, who scored seven points, contributed four steals to the count of 17 Manheim turnovers, including three in the first half to shake Manheim from its preference of dribbling aimlessly near halfcourt. Josh Sharkey came off the bench to dish three assists. And David Beatty had two big buckets. Even sophomore Ryan Daly, who hit the court late in the first quarter, chipped in two points.
Even as Jones walked into the locker room for an awkward halftime during which he was on the treatment table and separated from his teammates, he had no worries as to their ability to hang on.
"We're a great team," Jones said. "Without me, we're still a great team. It's not one player that scores the ball, it's a total team effort. I wasn't shocked or anything; I knew we would have the lead by the time we got back, and my presence just helped a little more."
"We did a really good job of stepping up in his absence there," Romanczuk said. " ... That's a strength of our team, our depth, and when something like that happens, you need to step up as a team, and the nine guys who played for us tonight did that."
Once Jones got back on the court, the Patriots were able to pull away. Sharkey laid one in on the second possession of the second half to stretch the lead to 27-17, and the Barons were never within single digits again.
Jones was 5-for-5 in the second half from the field en route to a game-high 15 points to go with seven rebounds and three blocks. That included a pair of one-handed slams in the fourth quarter, before limping off when he landed on Austin Tilghman's foot blocking a shot, rolling his right ankle.
Tilghman shook off a slow first half by getting to the tin at will after halftime, scoring 11 points. Ernest Aflakpui, despite no field goal attempts after halftime, added six points to go with eight rebounds.
Manheim rarely challenged after halftime. Their high turnover count led to just 37 attempts from the field, and their only answer to Carroll's driving of the lane was to foul, collecting 12 in the first half and 20 in the game.
Matt Walsh sparked the Barons in the second quarter with seven of his 10 points, and Colin Brubaker got them to within 3 at 16-13 in that frame, but that was as close as they would come. Dan Wiederrecht led the Barons with 11 points.
Video via centralpahoops.com