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JACKSON - The St. John Vianney girls basketball players remembered well the 18-point third-quarter lead they nearly gave up against Gloucester Catholic in last year’s NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A final, so when the Lady Lancers took a 20-point lead into the fourth against the Rams again Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s championship, they made sure not to let up.

St. John Vianney – the top seed in the South Non-Public A section – shook off a slow start and turned in a suffocating defensive performance in dominating No. 3 Gloucester Catholic, 53-25, to win its second straight sectional title and 15th overall.

The Lancers will take on the winner of Wednesday’s North Jersey Non-Public A final between Paramus Catholic and defending Non-Public A champion Immaculate Heart Academy. IHA defeated St. John Vianney in last year’s Non-Public A final, 45-43 – the first time the Lancers had ever lost in a group final after winning in its first 15 tries.

Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ

Junior Kelly Campbell led the Lancers with a game-high 19 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, doing most of her scoring damage on the free-throw line (10-for-12).

“(Last year) was definitely in the back of our minds and we were determined to make sure they didn’t come back and make it close again,” said Campbell of Gloucester Catholic, which cut a near-20-point deficit to two last year before St. John Vianney eventually won, 58-47. “I think we were a little lackadaisical on offense in the fourth quarter, but from the second quarter on, we never let up on defense. We knew it was going to be a defensive game so we focused on stopping them.”

No other St. John Vianney player scored in double-figures, but 11 different Lancers players scored at least one point in the game. Kellie Crouch hit a three shortly before halftime and early on the third to take care of the bulk of her seven points. Zoe Pero and Tina Lebron, meanwhile, combined for 11 points off the bench, with Pero contributing six and Lebron adding five.

Junior guard Kelly Campbell led St. John Vianney with 19 points as the Lancers repeated as Non-Public South A champions with a dominating win over Gloucester Catholic. (Photo by Larry Murphy/Sports Pix NJ)

“The bench was outstanding,” Lancers coach Dawn Karpell said. “Tina and Zoe were great for us, and I thought (junior) Megan Furch came in and gave us about three big minutes with some foul trouble. Her energy was great and everyone’s energy was at a good level tonight, and we got a lot of contributions from everybody.”

St. John Vianney bottled up the Rams' scoring by keying on junior Mary Gedaka. Junior Gigi Caponegro led the effort to hound Gedaka, who finished with nine points and spent part of the second quarter on the bench in foul trouble.

“Mary’s a great player, and in practice, we just worked on rotating on defense so that we’d have help if she drives and we can take a charge,” Caponegro said. “The help did a great job of backing me up.”

Gloucester Catholic began the game in promising fashion, outscoring St. John Vianney 10-4 over the first five minutes of action. From that point, however, the Lancers outscored the Rams 17-2 over the final 11 minutes of the half and held Gloucester Catholic without a field goal for a stretch of 13:30 of the first and second quarters.

“We gave up 10 points in the first quarter and 15 the rest of the way,” Karpell said. “I think we were just dialed in. We knew where their strengths were, and we did a great job of taking those away collectively. Team effort.”

St. John Vianney struggled offensively in the first half as well (7-for-24 from the field, 29 percent), and also did not make a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter either until the reserves came into the game. The Lancers did, however, blow the game open with a 20-point fourth quarter, sparked by threes from Campbell, Crouch and Lebron.

“We didn’t really get in the flow offensively in the first half and pretty much relied on getting to the free-throw line,” Campbell said. “We hit a couple shots right before the half – Kellie Crouch hit a three – and I think that got us feeling more confident coming out for the third.”

With a team comprised of all juniors and sophomores – with the exception of freshman Madison Doring – St. John Vianney could be set up to steamroll this bracket next year, but after a heartbreaking loss to IHA last season, close Shore Conference Tournament losses to Manasquan in each of the last two SCT semifinals and no championships outside of division titles since a Non-Public A title in 2011, the Lancers are ready to start winning now.

“I know a lot of teams in the tournament have seniors and for them, this is their last chance,” Campbell said. “Even though we don’t have seniors, we still really want to win with the opportunity we had in front of us.”


Box Score

St. John Vianney 53, Gloucester 25






Gloucester Catholic (23-5)






St. John Vianney (24-3)







Gloucester Catholic (25): Maggie McIntyre 1 1-1 3, Naiy Sabb 0 0-0 0, Dani Sanderlin 5 1-2 11, Kennedi Thompson 1 0-0 2, Mary Gedaka 2 5-6 9, Sophia Kinnarney  0 0-0 0, Jenna Levantis 0 0-0 0, Megan Oysen 0 0-0 0, Kiara Rogan 0 0-0 0, Izzy Commonata 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 7-9 25

Three-pointers: None

Fouled Out: Sabb

St. John Vianney (53): Kelly Campbell 4 10-12 19, Kellie Crouch 2 1-2 7, Kim Evans 2 0-0 4, Gigi Caponegro 1 0-0 2, Courtney Dobrzynski 1 0-0 2, Tina Lebron 2 0-0 5, Zoe Pero 3 0-0 6, Vanessa Pinho 0 1-3 1, Megan Furch 0 0-0 0, Abby Anderko 1 0-0 3, Vanessa Kehoe 0 0-0 0, Julia Ramos 0 2-2 2, Madison Doring 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 14-19 53

Three-pointers: Campbell, Crouch 2, Lebron, Anderko