TOMS RIVER - In a conference with three top-five teams in New Jersey that returned most, if not all, of their starters from last year, the St. John Vianney girls basketball was fighting an uphill battle to repeat at Shore Conference Tournament champions with just one returning starter and plenty of youth and inexperience to boot.

After Monday night, the Lancers are now just one win away from making that climb and once again reaching the Shore Conference summit.

Senior Julia Ramos, junior Madison Doring and sophomores Sajada Bonner and Sarah Karpell all took on substantially larger roles this season and all four picked up returning center and Seton Hall commit Kimi Evans Monday to help carry the third-seeded Lancers past No. 2 Red Bank Catholic, 54-48, at Pine Belt Arena.

St. John Vianney sophomore Sajada Bonner. (Photo by Steve Meyer)
St. John Vianney sophomore Sajada Bonner. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

St. John Vianney will play for its second straight SCT championship Saturday, 5:30 p.m. at Monmouth University against fifth-seeded St. Rose.

"We're just excited to be going (to the final) in back-to-back years after graduating so many (seniors)," St. John Vianney coach Dawn Karpell said. "The kids we have just grew so much this year that we've really started to hit our stride."

"I'm so excited to be going back to the championship game," Doring said. "I didn't play last year, so to be actually playing this year is really exciting. Honestly, I'm just happy to do it for my team. We've worked so hard this season."

For the second time this season, RBC all but shut down Evans, holding her to four points and zero field goals on Monday after limiting her to five points in a 54-45 Caseys win on Jan. 21. The quartet of Bonner, Ramos, Doring and Karpell, however, stepped up to carry the load on both ends of the floor.

"We know that every game, teams are going to double team Kim or even triple-team her," Bonner said. "Kim always told us in practice that we had to perfect our shooting because we're going to get feeds from her. We had to step up when she wasn't able to be there because basically the whole (opposing) team plays Kim.

"The seniors have been amazing with their leadership and that has really helped with my confidence and the confidence of a lot of the younger girls."

Bonner led Vianney with a game-high 16 points, while Doring and Ramos each added 12. With the game tied at 44 and two minutes left, Bonner found Doring on the right wing, where the junior drilled the tiebreaking three-pointer to put the Lancers ahead, 47-44.

"We had a few different options on that play," Doring said. "Obviously, we got to that point and Sajada just saw me on the kickout and I let it fly."

Karpell also hit a three early in the fourth quarter that gave SJV a 41-36 lead and finished with seven points and six rebounds. Bonner later gained position in the post and scored inside to push Vianney's lead back to five at 44-39 with 3:15 left.

Red Bank Catholic responded with five unanswered points thanks to a three-point play by senior Josie Larkins on a give-and-go with senior Maureen Coakley, followed by a game-tying drive by Katie Rice. Larkins led Red Bank Catholic with 12 points while Rice finished with 11.

Rice and Coakley led the defensive effort that limited Evans to four points. Evans also battled foul trouble as she picked up her second foul early in the second quarter and her third with 6:58 left in the third.

The Lancers will now head into Saturday's championship game against St. Rose knowing they can find their way if the Purple Roses commit to stopping Evans. One more successful showing from the new crop of players would give St. John Vianney back-to-back championships after winning the tournament for the first time in 11 years last year.

"At the beginning of the year, I knew that we had the talent and the ability to match up with all the high quality teams around here," Karpell said. "It was going to be a matter of, could we grow up fast enough? We're excited to be going back."


Box Score

St. John Vianney 54, Red Bank Catholic 48

St. John Vianney (22-3)914131854
Red Bank Catholic (22-3)127151448

St. John Vianney (54): Sarah Karpell 2 2-8 7, Julia Ramos 4 3-6 12, Kimi Evans 0 4-8 4, Sajada Bonner 4 7-8 16, Courtney Dobrzynski 0 1-2 1, Madison Doring 4 0-0 12, Rahmena Henderson 1 0-0 2, Brellyn Bellamy 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 17-32 54

Three-pointers: Karpell, Ramos, Bonner, Doring 4

Red Bank Catholic (48): Tia Montagne 3 1-3 8, Josie Larkins 5 1-2 12, Maureen Coakley 1 0-0 2, Rose Caverly 3 2-3 9, Katie Rice 3 5-8 11, Hayley Moore 2 0-0 6, Amanda Hart 0 0-2 0, Eliza Srinivasan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 9-18 48

Three-pointers: Montagne, Larkins, Caverly, Moore 2

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