An already tough field at the KeyBank Holiday Classic got tougher this season with the inclusion of Radnor (Pa.) John Carroll.

An already tough field at the KeyBank Holiday Classic got tougher this season with the inclusion of Radnor (Pa.) John Carroll.

John Carroll may be new to the tournament, but the Patriots are not new to competitions like this. They compete in some of the top tournaments on the East Coast, and last year played in the Nike Elite Tournament held in Phoenix, Ariz.

Although John Carroll has played in some of the upper echelon tournaments, the Patriots are best known for the basketball they've played in Philadelphia. Last year, they were 30-1 and won the Philadelphia Catholic League title as well the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association AAA state championship.

The AAA classification is the second-largest group a team can be in, making it similar to Division II in Ohio. It was the first year John Carroll competed in the PIAA postseason. The Patriots previously competed just in the Catholic League playoffs.

"We knew (Pickerington) was a well-run tournament with some good competition," third-year coach Chuck Creighton said. "We want to play in the best tournaments we can and against national-caliber teams. Fortunately there was a spot for us."

John Carroll lost three players from its team, but the Patriots look as strong as ever with a good returning group.

Leading the way are seniors Erin Shields (5-6, point guard) and Mary Kate McCann (5-5, shooting guard). They pace John Carroll's up-tempo offense and are tough defenders.

In the Patriots' 55-17 season-opening win over Harrisburg McDevitt on Dec. 15, McCann had 13 points, four steals and three assists. John Carroll opened the game with a 24-3 run and led 35-4 at halftime.

"We're a very deep team with a lot of interchangeable parts," Creighton said. "We shoot the ball well and we defend well. That's pretty much what we concentrate on.

"One thing we need to do better is rebound, and that's just because we're small."

The Patriots' tallest player is freshman forward Sarah Curran at 5-11. Behind her are juniors Emily Fazzini (5-9, forward/guard) and Nora McGeever (5-8, forward) and sophomores Melissa Levy (5-10, center) and Rachel Pearson (5-9, forward).

John Carroll opens the tournament against Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, the defending Ohio Division I state champion.

Mount Notre Dame opened the season 3-1 and will provide a good challenge for John Carroll. The Cougars have two very skilled guards in junior Kathryn Reynolds and sophomore Raeshaun Gaffney.