Girls Basketball – Red Bank Catholic Wins Non-Public A Title, Heads to T of C
TOMS RIVER - Red Bank Catholic senior Josie Larkins and her classmates entered the program four years ago hoping that they would win a state title by the time they were finished. After three years of coming up short, Larkins and her classmates were running out of time, but with a coach that never showed any doubt and a junior class that has emerged alongside the seniors, it was finally Red Bank Catholic's time.
The Caseys seized control of the Non-Public A championship in the first quarter and put away Immaculate Heart Academy, 55-41, to win the program's eighth overall state championship and first since 2013.
Larkins and fellow senior starters Maureen Coakley and Tia Montagne entered the program the year after RBC won the Non-Public A championship and reached the Tournament of Champions semifinals on the heels of winning the Shore Conference Tournament.
"We've seen people before us do it, we've seen other teams do it and we've always wanted to do it," Larkins said. "Just having that mentality that we trust each other, we trust our coach. He (Red Bank Catholic coach Joe Montano) has been so hard on us lately and this entire year, but in the best way possible. He has believed in us more than we've believed in ourselves and I think this year was the first year we've believed as much as he has."
Red Bank Catholic overcame three-time defending South Jersey Non-Public A champion St. John Vianney in the sectional semifinals before handling Paul VI on a neutral floor in Wednesday's sectional final. The Caseys threatened to run away from Immaculate Heart as well, grabbing a 19-9 lead after one quarter thanks to a 10-0 run.
IHA pulled within six points on two occasions the rest of the way, but the Caseys put the game away with a 14-5 run over a period spanning the end of the third quarter and most of the fourth.
"The mark of a good team is when you don't play your best game and do what we did today," Montano said. "It's a long run and it's a grind and I thought our kids did a great job."
Larkins poured in 14 points while junior Katie Rice led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds. Rice scored 10 of her points in the fourth quarter to help RBC put the game on ice, and also shot 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point line.
Montagne and Coakley helped anchor the RBC defense, Montagne on the ball and Coakley on the interior. Montagne spent most of the game on IHA senior guard Katie Jones, who finished with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Coakley led the effort in holding 6-foot-2 Blue Eagles freshman Anna Morris to six points on 3-for-9 shooting. Coakley also scored all four of her points in the first three offensive possessions of the game.
"I thought in the second half, Tia did an awesome job on the basketball," Montano said. "That got us playing defense, it got some turnovers, and she hit a big three. Then Katie and Rosie hit a couple after that and we got rolling."
Junior Rose Caverly added six points and seven rebounds while junior Hayley Moore hit two threes and scored six points - all in the first quarter.
RBC was the second girls basketball team to punch its ticket to the Tournament of Champions, which is slated to tip off on Tuesday night. Rutgers Prep defeated Queen of Peace to win the Non-Public B title and will likely be the top seed in the tournament.
"Now we have nothing to lose," Rice said. "It's the top six teams in the state and we have nothing to lose. We're going to play as hard as we can and try to get that TOC championship."