HOLMDEL - St. John Vianney's girls basketball program exists to win championships in late February and March, but there is such thing as a big win in December for the Lancers and they picked up one of those on Wednesday.

St. John Vianney - the No. 9 team in the state according to NJ.com - beat No. 3 and defending NJSIAA Tournament of Champions winner Franklin, 63-55, to win their fifth straight game to open the season.

Junior Sarah Karpell led a balanced scoring effort with 16 points, with senior Madison Doring adding 15 and junior Sajada Bonner pouring in 11 in the win. Junior Brelynn Bellamy also pitched in seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

"This is a huge win for us," Karpell said. "This was a chance to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we can beat a championship team and we showed we're capable of doing that. It's only December, so we still have to keep getting better every day and go back to taking it one day at a time, but it's a big confidence boost to keep winning against good teams."

St. John Vianney junior Sarah Karpell. (Photo by Matt Manley)

St. John Vianney trailed 16-9 at the end of the first quarter and fought back to take the lead late in the second quarter before heading into the break tied at 28.

The Lancers took the lead on a driving layup by Karpell to put her team ahead, 35-33, early in the third quarter. Franklin then trailed until late in the fourth quarter when sophomore Kennady Schenck hit a free throw after her twin sister, Keona, hit a three-pointer to cut the SJV lead to 51-50.

Franklin had a chance to take the lead, but Vianney junior Brelynn Bellamy stole the ball and took it the length of the court for the go-ahead scorer that put the Lancers ahead for good.

St. John Vianney conceded the offensive glass to Franklin early on but the Lancers wore down the Warriors and forced 23 turnovers thanks to defensive pressure that increased over the course of the game.

"I thought we did a good job of settling down and making better decisions as the game went on," St. John Vianney coach Dawn Karpell said. "Early on, I thought maybe we were rushing a little bit and forcing ourselves into some bad situations, but we settled down and took our time on offense, which gave us a chance to set our defense."

Franklin junior standout Diamond Miller came to life in the second half after battling first-half foul trouble. She poured in 22 of her game-high 26 points after halftime, including Franklin's first 19 points of the second half.

"She's obviously the one they try to get the ball to and run their offense through and I think she just settled into the game in the second half," Karpell said of Miller. "She got in foul trouble early and that probably took her out of her flow a little bit and in the second half, she did what she's capable of doing. We did a decent job of making her work and putting pressure on their other players, getting turnovers and taking advantage."

Current Seton Hall freshman Kimi Evans was the center of the Lancers offense and defense last season with a host of new players around her and St. John Vianney still reached the Shore Conference Tournament final. Now, with an experienced returning class, the Lancers are still trying to adjust to the new identity without Evans but are doing so with a more experienced group than they had last year.

"Last year, we played slower because we wanted to take advantage of Kimi in the halfcourt, but this year we're looking to play a lot faster," Karpell said. "We're still learning and getting used to some new roles, but we definitely have the talent to play fast and up-tempo against any team and I think we are proving that so far."


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