JACKSON - Thanks to the spark from a freshman off the bench and the veteran poise of senior standout Jess Louro, St. Rose's girls basketball team defended its NJSIAA Non-Public South B title with a 45-34 win over Roselle Catholic on Wednesday night at Jackson Liberty.

With one of its top scorers, senior guard Kat Phipps, sitting for the final 6:38 of the second quarter with three fouls, freshman guard Makayla Markham gave the Purple Roses (30-1) a lift with four of her eight points during the period to complement eight points by Louro, who finished with a game-high 20 in the win. It helped give St. Rose a 20-11 halftime lead that it never relinquished, as its defense forced 18 turnovers to help overcome some offensive struggles.

St. Rose knocked off Roselle Catholic to win its second straight NJSIAA Non-Public South B crown on Wednesday night. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

"I knew I just had to play my game, (and) get to the basket,'' Louro said. "We really zoned in on defense. We knew we had to keep our composure on defense."

St. Rose will face North Jersey winner Lodi Immaculate at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River at a time to be announced on Saturday as it now tries to defend its Non-Public B title after a run to last year's Tournament of Champions.

After an ugly first quarter that St. Rose won 6-5, the Purple Roses ended the half on a 10-0 run despite the absence of Phipps, who had a tough night in finishing with eight points on 2-for-15 shooting. Markham helped fill the void with two driving scores in the second quarter as both teams tried to get something going offensively.

"Makayla Markham did a great job,'' St. Rose coach Joe Whalen said. "A lot of people say she's a surprise, but she's not a surprise to us. We've been with her since the summer, we know what she can do. She's another ballhandler, she can shoot the ball, she gets to the rim, (and) she's got a high basketball IQ. She held the fort down until Kat got back in the game."

"Every time I come in the game, I bring some energy,'' Markham said. "With (Phipps) out, I just wanted to play extra hard and do the little things since she's a big part of our team."

St. Rose ran its offense through Louro, a Middle Tennessee State recruit, by spreading the floor and having her handle the ball to use her ability off the dribble to score in the paint and back down smaller defenders. She scored eight of St. Rose's 14 points in the second quarter, and sophomore guard Ellyn Stoll capped the period with a short jumper as time expired in the half for a nine-point lead.

"We just had her take it off the dribble,'' Whalen said. "That's worked for us for 2 1/2 years now. Jess is able to do that."

A three-point play by Markham early in the third quarter made it a 10-point game at 23-13, and the Purple Roses kept it that way with a 27-17 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Roselle Catholic shot 3-for-11 in the third quarter and committed five turnovers. St. Rose also did not allow a 3-pointer in the game, as the Lions (25-3) were 0-for-4 from downtown.

"They run that flex offense, (and) they run it forever so it takes patience,'' Whalen said. "Sometimes we got caught giving up middle, we got caught reaching, but for the most part we did a great job of ball pressure. That was our plan: run them off the (3-point) line and bump their cutters."

"We knew we really needed to build on that lead a little bit more, so we needed to keep going at them,'' Louro said.

Louro went 5-for-7 from the foul line and scored seven fourth-quarter points to offset a 9-point fourth quarter by Roselle Catholic's Dolapo Balogun, who finished with a team-high 16 points. The Purple Roses had the lead as high as 13 points, with Roselle Catholic getting no closer than seven down the stretch.

St. Rose shot 12-for-17 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to close out the win and prevented second shots by the Lions with Louro controlling the defensive glass.

"She had every big rebound,'' Whalen said. "Jess had every 50-50 ball. It's a kid who's very talented, who's very competitive and wants to keep playing."

Box score

St. Rose 45, Roselle Catholic 34

St. Rose (45): Jen Louro 1 3-4 5, Phipps 2 4-5 8, Marsicano 1 0-0 2, Stoll 1 0-0 2, Jess Louro 7 6-10 20, Markham 3 2-3 8, Coakley 0 0-0 0, Cretella 0 0-0 0, Jordan 0 0-0 0, Pendergrass 0 0-0 0, Dillenger 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 15-22 45.

Roselle Catholic (34): Balogun 6 4-10 16, Cubbage 3 1-2 7, K. Jacobs 0 2-2 2, Ti. McQueen 0 0-2 0, McClave 3 0-0 6, Skrec 0 1-2 1, Williams 0 0-0 0, Saint-Amand 1 0-0 2, V. Jacobs 0 0-0 0, Ty. McQueen 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 8-18 34.

St. Rose (30-1)                6  14  7 18 - 45

Roselle Catholic (25-3)    5   6   6   17 - 34

Three-pointers: None. Fouled out: (R) McQueen.