Carroll's girls have claim to be No. 1 in the state

Posted: March 23, 2009

Archbishop Carroll's girls' basketball team has an argument, a strong argument, after Saturday night's impressive, 68-45 thrashing of Lampeter-Strasburg at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center for the PIAA Class AAA state championship, the first Catholic League girls' basketball team to win a state crown.

Were the Patriots, who made history in pulling off the trifecta of winning the Catholic League, District 12 and state championships, the best girls' high school basketball team in Pennsylvania in 2008-09, regardless of classification?

Well, they definitely were in Class AAA, after beating Lampeter-Strasburg. But when you add victories over powerhouse Cardinal O'Hara in the Catholic League semifinals, then Trinity in the state semifinals and finishing with a 30-1 overall record, it's easy to say Carroll could have beaten any team in the state.

Winning the state title also enabled the Carroll girls to share history with the Carroll boys' program, which won their own Class AAA state crown Friday night. The Radnor-based school became only the fifth in PIAA history to have both boys' and girls' basketball teams win state titles the same year. Trinity High, located in Camp Hill near Harrisburg, was the last school to do it in 2001.

Saturday night put an exclamation point on this version of Carroll's girls program. The Pats finished off a year in which they'll hang three new banners in their gym, honoring this team for as long as the felt lettering holds up.

But the best in Pennsylvania? They have one obvious staunch advocate.

"I think we're the best team in the state and I think we proved that Saturday night, but that's for other people to argue," said coach Chuck Creighton, who is 49-8 in 2 years at Carroll. "I wouldn't want to coach any other team. These are really special kids.

"We spoke about one step at a time, and by the end of the year, we were a very, very, very good team. These girls left no doubt they were the best team. They worked very hard to achieve the goals they accomplished."

By halftime against Lampeter-Strasburg, the game was essentially over. Carroll held a 45-19 lead and the Pats couldn't seem to miss. Kerri Shields led all scorers with 12 points, as Carroll shot 17-for-26 from the floor and an amazing 7-for-10 from three-point range.

Lampeter-Strasburg held two leads, 2-0 and 4-2. That was it. Once Erin Shields nailed a trey with 4 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first quarter, giving the Pats a 7-4 lead, Carroll never trailed again. Once Carroll opened a 26-15, first-quarter lead, the Pioneers never got within 10 points.

The Carroll anvil came crashing down on the Pioneers the last 6 minutes of the second quarter, when the Pats outscored Lampeter-Strasburg, 17-2. A Hollie Mershon three-point play with 56.2 seconds left gave Carroll a 42-19 lead, then Kerri Shields hit another trey with 7.3 seconds left, giving the Pats a 26-point cushion.

The Shields sisters, Kerri a senior heading to Boston College, and Erin, a junior committed to Saint Joseph's, shot a combined 5-for-6 from three-point range in the first half.

With 5:45 left in the third quarter, Kaitlin Cole's basket put Carroll up, 52-22. By then, Creighton began emptying his bench.

"Twenty years from now, these girls will remember this time, and this season and it's something that no one can ever take from them," Creighton said. "For me personally, I think I'll remember this team for how hard they worked, and how they became better players and better teammates. For everything this team has done, these girls deserve to be floating on air." *

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