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By Casey Krish - Shore Sports Network Contributor

For Red Bank Catholic, Thursday proved to be a return to where a premiere program expects itself to be every single year.

RBC needed to get past a tough opponent in St. Rose to reach the Shore Conference championship game and did so to earn another shot at its archrival.

The Caseys rode a balanced scoring attack led by junior forward Justine Pissott with 17 points, junior forward Ally Carmen with 11 and senior guard Sophia Sobino with 10 to a 60-44 victory over St. Rose in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Championship Pod.

The Caseys will face top-ranked and undefeated St. John Vianney on Saturday for the Pod A championship.

RBC got out to a scorching start from beyond the arc, building a double-digit lead early in the second quarter behind a flurry of three-pointers.

From the opening tip, it appeared the Caseys were set to wear down their opponent while also playing a brand of basketball that left their opponents constantly turning for the ball.

“We are really good at moving the ball around,” Pissott said. “The great thing with our offense is that we have so many girls who can be trusted with the ball in their hands.”

In the semifinal, eight different players found the scoresheet for the Caseys, leaving St. Rose having to worry about multiple threats from the floor.

Lucy Alberici contributed nine, while Molly Kelly, Casey Prior, Emma Carmen and Antonia Panayides each found the scoresheet, as well, for Red Bank Catholic (10-1).

St. Rose found a way to limit the damage in the second quarter, staying true to a man-to-man defense and not giving the Caseys many easy shots, but the Purple Roses (11-3) were unable to get into a rhythm. Throughout the second frame, St. Rose was limited to five points while shooting just 2-for-14 from the field.

With a 33-19 halftime lead in tow, the Caseys seemed destined to cruise into the championship game, and for the first six minutes of the third quarter that’s exactly how it played out. RBC ballooned its lead to 43-21 before a late 9-0 run by St. Rose trimmed the Caseys’ lead to 13 heading into the final quarter.

St. Rose senior guard Abby Antognoli led the comeback effort with 15 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Niasya Ervin added 10 and hit a few big shots during the Roses’ late third-quarter surge.

In the end, RBC was able to survive the push without allowing St. Rose to get any closer than 12 points throughout the fourth quarter.

“We started getting a bit sloppy and allowed them to make a run,” said Red Bank Catholic head coach Joe Montano. “All props to them that they were able to capitalize on those chances.”

With two tough wins over Manchester Township and St. Rose in the rearview mirror, Red Bank Catholic will turn its attention to St. John Vianney for the final game of the 2021 season. The Lancers handed RBC its only setback of the season, a 63-32 drubbing on the road in Holmdel in a game that Pissott did not play in.

That outcome means nothing to the Caseys. Saturday is a new day and a new chance at adding to their championship history. RBC will be looking to win its first SCT title (although unofficial) since 2013, when they defeated Point Boro, 50-46. They will also be looking to hand their parochial rival their third straight defeat in the title game.

“These girls deserve this with everything they’ve been through this season,” Montano said. “I give them a ton of credit. There are a lot of people who don’t give them enough credit and expect them to be perfect, but I’m very proud of them.”

“Last year St. Rose beat us in our gym, so we knew we had to get them back tonight,” Pissott said. “Now we need to fully shift our focus to Saturday and SJV. They got the best of us a few weeks ago, but we understand the magnitude of this game and we will be ready for them.”


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