RUMSON - The St. John Vianney girls basketball team is getting closer to full strength and Tuesday night against another one of the hottest teams in the state, the Lancers displayed what the rest of the Shore Conference could be in for now that they have a full roster.

Senior Tina Lebron, senior Gigi Caponegro and junior Kimi Evans all scored in double-figures and senior Kelly Campbell added nine points, seven assists and three steals to lead Vianney to a 55-40 win over Rumson-Fair Haven, snapping the Bulldogs' eight-game winning streak.

Lebron led the Lancers with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting from behind the three-point arc. Caponegro contributed 10 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of blocks while Evans added 11 points and seven rebounds in the win.

Tina Lebron (right) watches one of her five three-pointers drop through the net. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Tina Lebron (right) watches one of her five three-pointers drop through the net. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We almost have our full team back," Lebron said. "Once we have our full team back, it's going to be amazing. I can't even imagine it."

Campbell continued her return to form after beginning the season on the sidelines with a stress fracture in her shin, according to St. John Vianney coach Dawn Karpell. The senior DePaul commit returned just under three weeks ago.

"Kelly's an amazing point guard, one of the best I've played against and played with," Lebron said. "She can drive and kick it out which makes it easier for me and the other shooters. She can drive and dish it inside. She can do whatever we need her to do at the time, so it's great having her back."

St. John Vianney added another starter from a year ago back to the rotation Tuesday with the return of Kellie Crouch. The senior guard missed 10 weeks of action with a stress fracture in her foot, according to Karpell, and came off the bench against the Bulldogs to ease back into action.

"We definitely had to work our way back into full swing," Campbell said. "I think we finally have everybody back healthy now. This was Kellie's first game. So it's really great to have everybody back and playing together and really working our chemistry better."

"In the beginning, it was tough," Caponegro said. "We all had to play different roles and I think I was more focused on, instead of creating a good shot, rushing everything just to get some kind of offense. Now that everyone's back, I can play my role that I'm more used to."

With something resembling its full squad for the first time this year, Vianney showcased its depth early and often against the Bulldogs and the balanced scoring output was a part of that. In addition to the four players with nine points or more, six other Lancers players gave Karpell significant minutes.

Zoe Pero, Vanessa Pinho and Courtney Dobrzynski were all regular contributors last year and junior Julia Ramos and freshman Sarah Karpell have proven worthy of time after stepping into more playing time in light of the injuries to Crouch and Campbell. With Crouch added to that mix, Karpell has a chance to play 10 regulars in the rotation and employ long stretches of the full-court pressure that has been a staple of the St. John Vianney program.

"We had a lot of practice time this week and we just really stressed getting back to guarding," Karpell said. "Our bench and our ability to run countless defenders out there was ultimately what paid off in the fourth quarter."

"I think it becomes a little easier for us because we don't have to double down (on defense) and we have more offensive threats, so teams really have to play defense on us," Caponegro said.

The defense brought home Tuesday's win, as the Lancers outscored Rumson 11-5 in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs had bounced back from deficits of 11 and 10 points in the third quarter, but each time Rumson drew within a couple of baskets of the visitor, Vianney stretched the lead back out.

"Julie Ramos and Sarah Karpell got early time at the beginning of the season so they came into tonight with some confidence to their game," Dawn Karpell said. "They both gave us a boost and allowed some of our kids to rest so by that fourth quarter, we were fully loaded."

The Lancers started the second quarter on a 14-5 run to take a 29-17 lead and settled for a 31-20 advantage at the break. Lebron hit two three-pointers during the stretch and Campbell added one of her own to aid the cause.

The Bulldogs scored the final two points of the half and the first five of the third quarter to pull within 31-27, but Vianney answered with six straight, including a pair of baskets by Evans and left-handed drive by Caponegro.

Rumson regrouped during a timeout and scored five straight on a three by Sam Sabino and a steal and lay-in by Megan Volker, cutting the Vianney lead to 37-32. A three by Sabino later chopped the Lancer lead to 42-35, but Evans banked in a shot in the post just before time expired in the third to put Vianney ahead by nine heading into the fourth. Rumson would not get any close during the fourth.

Not only did Rumson enter the game on an eight-game winning streak, but the Bulldogs were coming off a win at defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Manasquan on Friday night. The Warriors took St. John Vianney to overtime before falling in Campbell's first game back from injury and did so while playing without a standout of their own in Dara Mabrey.

"This was our aim today," Campbell said. "We actually said in the locker room today that we wanted to win by fifteen, so it was a great team accomplishment today."


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