HOLMDEL – Somewhere in the depth of the minds of each St. Rose player, vengeance was seeded. A natural emotion given the circumstances and the opponent. Yet, it wasn’t at the forefront.

No, that place was reserved for the intangibles necessary to exact the desired revenge the Purple Roses had so anxiously awaited nearly three weeks to exorcise.  Retribution had to take a backseat to more pressing issues, such as comprehension, composure and comradery.

Out of the ashes singed back on Feb. 20, when Brelynn Bellamy’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer pushed St. John Vianny past the Purple Roses, 39-37, in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament rose a phoenix rejuvenated and wiser that learned from its shortcomings in the first encounter.

Monday night, St. Rose applied what it recouped from that stinging setback. Playing with poise under extreme pressure, with each component offering something different and crucial to a concerted cause, the fifth-seeded Purple Roses galvanized in the face of an early deficit, courageously countered and staved off a late challenge from top-seeded St. John Vianney to pull out a satisfying 47-43 victory in the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A tournament before a standing-room-only audience.

“We talked about staying composed,” said St. Rose coach Janine Roth. “This was not an easy environment to win a big game in but we’ve learned from every game. This time, they kept it together.”

And, did so by playing as such. Each player that stepped on the floor for St. Rose (26-3), which will face third-seeded Red Bank Catholic, a 56-39 winner over second-seeded Gloucester Catholic, on Wednesday in the sectional final at Jackson Liberty, left an imprint on the triumph.

Senior forward Lucy Thomas pumped in 17 points, including 10 in a pivotal third quarter, and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior point guard Mikayla Markham exuded the aplomb that infectiously coursed through St. Rose, collecting 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal. Senior Ari Dalia and Sam Mikos administered suffocating man-to-man defense, aided by help-side assistance and instincts that triggered seamless switches off screens out high to immediately cut off penetration.

Junior Lauren Lithgow came off the bench to net five points and freshman 5-6 reserve Abigail Antognoli fearlessly went underneath to retrieve offensive rebounds that kept possessions alive. Put it all together and therein lied the formula for which revenge was reaped.

“We have a really versatile team,” noted Markham. “Everyone can attack and we trust everyone to make big shots and big defensive plays.”

It took all hands on deck for St. Rose to put the Lady Lancers away. It perseverance was put to the test from the outset when St. John Vianney raced to a 16-9 lead powered by a run of eight straight points and the hot hand of senior guard Madison Doring, who scored 10 of her team-high 17 within the first eight minutes.

Undaunted, the Purple Roses methodically chipped away. They closed the gap to 16-11, scored the first five points of the second quarter, drawing even on a 3-pointer by senior Lovin Marsicano and forged a 20-20 tie on a Mikos putback. Markham ensued with a cut to the rim that Dalia recognized and rewarded with a feed that snapped the deadlock, gave St. Rose its first lead and was part of a 6-2 burst in the final 2:54 of the half that sent the Belmar school into intermission with a 26-22 edge that it never surrendered.

Thomas accounted for nine points in a 12-4 splurge, stamped by a three-point play that staked St. Rose to its largest lead, 38-26, with 2:40 showing in the third.

“I had a lot of great passes from teammates,” praised Thomas, who converted three assists from Dalia during the tear.  “We had to bring more energy, more intensity this time…calm down and not get pressured.”

St. John Vianney did its best to test that mettle. A Doring putback beat the third-quarter buzzer to pare the gap to 41-34 and the Lady Lancers made the most of St. Rose going 2 for 6 at the foul line through the initial sixth minutes of the fourth. A 3-pointer by Doring got SJV to within 42-40 with 2:27 to play, but that was as close as it got.

Two free throws by Dalia provided St. Rose with a 45-40 edge. After SJV junior guard Rahmena Henderson (10 points) drove inside to make it 45-43 with 10.3 seconds left, St. Rose momentarily lost the ball on the inbounds before Mikos recovered it and fired an outlet to Dalia, who forwarded the ball ahead to Lithgow for an uncontested layup that sealed the outcome.

Depth was imperative for St. Rose. When Marsicano fouled out with 1:52 remaining in the third, Dalia rose to the occasion. Her fierce defense was mercilessly hounding while keen distribution made her an immeasurable asset at both ends.

“We worked on our post entry passes and pushing it up the floor when we had opportunities,” said Dalia. “Defensively, I just I love frustrating people and getting under their skin. When they show some kind of reaction that means I’m doing my job.”

After conceding seven field goals on 10 attempts in the first quarter, St. Rose induced SJV into a 10-for-31 spell over the balance of the contest.

“We have players like Sam, Ari and Lucy who aren’t going to let anyone score on them,” said Markham, who can include herself in that category. “They have a defensive toughness no one can match.”

St. Rose (26-3)                   11           15           15           06 --- 47
St. John Vianney (25-3)     16           06           12           09 --- 43

St. Rose: Abigail Antognoli 1-0-0-2; Lauren Lithgow 1-1-0-5; Sam Mikos 1-0-3-5; Mikayla Markham 5-0-3-13; Lovin Marsicano 0-1-0-3; Ari Dalia 0-0-2-2; Lucy Thomas 6-0-5-17. Totals: 14-2-13---47.

St. John Vianney: Rahmena Henderson 4-0-2-10; Sarah Karpell 3-0-0-6; Madison Doring 4-3-0-17; Sajada Bonner 1-0-3-5; Katie Hill 0-0-0-0; Brelynn Bellamy 1-0-0-2; Sarah Furch 1-0-1-3; Christina Whitehead 0-0-0-0. Totals: 14-3-6---43.

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