Jackson, NJ- Not every game goes as scripted or is painted with beautiful strokes, but the end product of tonights NJSIAA Non Public A South Championship is perfect enough for Saint John Vianney who beat Gloucester Catholic for the third year in a row 39-25.

The win improves the Lancers, #1 in New Jersey, to a 28-1 record that includes A Central title, Shore Conference Tournament title and now Non Public A South title.  All this would be use fine for most teams, but this group has unfinished business.  After losing to Saint Rose in the Tournament of Champions semifinals last year, Saint John Vianney is not letting up anytime soon.

Kimi Evans goes up for two against Gloucester Catholic (photo Eric Braun)
Kimi Evans goes up for two against Gloucester Catholic (photo Eric Braun)

Saint John Vianney wasted no time getting the ball into the hands of Kimi Evans down low who opened the scoring with 7 points in the opening four minutes to give the Lancers a 9-2 lead.  But it was a rough night for Evans and Tina Lebron who both picked up two fouls early and sat for a good part of the first half.

Tina Lebron who picked up her second questionable foul early in the second quarter went to the bench and was held scoreless in the half.  Frustrated walking off the court her teammates picked her up both on and off the court.  It didn't take long in the third quarter for Lebron to make her presence felt as she stole the momentum back with a huge 3-pointer and followed with a layup to extended the Lancers lead to 29-17 midway through the third.

Afterwards Lebron added "tonight was frustrating picking up the early fouls and not being able to help my teammates early, but they never stopped believing in me and told me before the third quarter started this is going to be your half, so it was a huge lift to hit that three early to help us extend the lead."

Tina Lebron creates a steal against Gloucester Catholic (photo Eric Braun)
Tina Lebron creates a steal against Gloucester Catholic (photo Eric Braun)

Gloucester Catholic made things interesting in the third quarter as they forced the Lancers into 7 missed field goals in the quarter while they chipped away at Saint John's lead.  The Rams closed out the quarter on 6-0 run and held the Lancers scoreless for the final four minutes of play and went into the fourth quarter trailing 29-23.

It was in the fourth quarter where the veteran leadership that has gotten the Lancers through there incredible run this season showed up.  With the Rams trying to hang around, Evans took a pass down low from Kelly Campbell along the baseline and went up for two and was fouled on the play and connected on her free throw for a three point play that increase the lead to 35-25 with just under three minutes to play.

With the Lancers increasing their lead to 10 points, it relied on the defensive pressure from seniors Vanessa Pinho and Gabrielle Caponegro to close the deal on the defensive end.  Both Pinho, Caponegro and Campbell applied pressure to the Rams offense all night long and turned it up in the fourth quarter, holding Gloucester to just two points in the quarter and zero over the final four minutes of play.

With both offense struggling due to missed shots and great defensive pressure, it was unsung heroes that would need to step up and Coach Dawn Karpell had just that person she could rely on to come off the bench.  Zoe Pero has been the emotional leader all season long and Wednesday night with Evans in trouble early she got her chance to bring that emotion to the forefront of the Non Public A South title game.

Coach Karpell when asked about the play of Pero added, "Zoe as everyone knows is never shy or holds back and you take the good and bad with her emotion, tonight she was a huge part of our win by adding valuable minutes for Kimi and played the aggressive smart defense we needed to shut down Gloucester".

With the win Saint John Vianney moves onto the NJSIAA Non Public Group A Championship game Saturday March 12th at 12pm at the Pine Belt Arena against another familiar foe in Immaculate Heart, who reached the final with a 59-36 win over Pope John.   It will be another rematch for Vianney who beat Immaculate Heart in the Group A finals last year 50-46 before losing to Saint Rose in the Tournament of Champions semifinal.

Coach Karpell added "this group has had a mission all season long it was to finish unfinished business.  Getting this far and winning what have so far never gets old, but this group wants to finish what they set out for and that is to be the best in New Jersey which means winning the TOC."

SJV Celebrates (photo Eric Braun)
SJV Celebrates (photo Eric Braun)


Kelly Campbell931 0-0
Gabrielle Caponegro3101-2
Kimi Evans11501-1
Tina Lebron8120-1
Sarah Karpell1001-2
Zoe Pero7301-4


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