When Grace O’Neill was younger, she used to watch her uncle, Chuck Creighton, coach the Archbishop Carroll girls’ basketball team in the Philadelphia Catholic League finals at the Palestra.
Now, the freshman guard gets to experience a championship for herself.
O’Neill scored 17 points Tuesday night to help the Patriots beat Bonner-Prendergast, 49-36, in the semifinals of the PCL playoffs at Jefferson University. Carroll will play Archbishop Wood, a 60-50 winner over Neumann-Goretti, on Monday in the championship at the Palestra.
“The girls work so hard throughout the year, and if you don’t see the results it’s like, ‘What the hell?’” Patriots coach Renie Shields said. “It’s good to see that their hard work is paying off.”
But Carroll’s victory over the Pandas didn’t come easy.
Bonner-Prendergast denied the Patriots’ leading scorer, junior forward Erin Sweeney, the ball for the whole contest, which limited her to only four first-quarter points.
Shields said she challenged O’Neill during halftime to be more aggressive on offense because Sweeney was being taken away.
“Erin wasn’t available,” Shields said. “I though they responded really well, they moved the ball well to get the open shot, and I think Grace driving to the basket really helped us a ton.”
O’Neill responded by scoring 13 of her 17 points in the second half. She sparked a 15-2 Carroll run early in the third quarter with a steal that led to a layup on the other end.
O’Neill’s driving ability also opened up looks for Sweeney, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
“My teammates set great screens for me,” Sweeney said.
Bonner-Prendergast threatened the Patriots’ lead to start off the fourth quarter. The Pandas went on a 13-3 run to cut the deficit to five points at 38-33.
Junior guard Dakota McCaughan scored six of her 11 points during that stretch. Senior center Ariana McGeary scored a team-high 14 points for the Pandas.
But, the Patriots pulled away with a run of their own to ice the contest.
O’Neill said the victory was revenge for the loss the Patriots suffered to Bonner-Prendergast earlier in the season.
“No matter who we played, we knew we were going to step up,” O’Neill said. “It was really cool to play against them because some of them are my friends. … It’s cool to come and play against them in the Catholic League.”
And with one more win, O”Neill and the rest of Patriots can become champs of the PCL.
“Getting to the Palestra is pretty cool,” Shields said. “This group has not been there, so it’s going to be exciting for them.”
Carroll 12 10 13 14 -- 49
Bonner-Prendie 11 5 4 16 -- 36
AC: Erin Sweeney 21, Grace O’Neill 17, Harlem Jennings 9, Karli Dougherty 2
BP: Ariana McGeary 14, Dakota McCaughan 11, Maeve McCann 9, Alexis Gleason 2
Archbishop Wood 10 14 12 24 60
Neumann-Goretti 13 8 18 11 50
AW: Kaitlyn Orihel 31, Elizabeth Fasti 17, Bri Bowen 6, Ryleigh Parsons 4, Annie Whalen 2
NG: Diamond Johnson 18, Omoiye Jordan 17, Sierra Bermudez 7, Kiara Koger 6, Sara Coppola 2