By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Solid defense at center of St. John Vianney's success this season
Of all the glittering statistics the St. John Vianney girls’ basketball team puts up, the most outstanding of them may be in the defensive columns.
After a South Jersey Non-Public A championship game in which the Lancers held Gloucester Catholic to single digits in three of four quarters, the trend continued in the NJSIAA Non-Public A title game with Immaculate Heart on March 12 in Toms River.
SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE NJSIAA NON-PUBLIC A FINAL, HERE.
In what would become a 72-30 victory at Pine Belt Arena, St. John Vianney held IHA to five points in the first quarter and four in the second. That made it five of the last six quarters that it held its foes to single digits.
Even more impressive for the Lancers, in the first quarter IHA shot 2-for-9 with 11 turnovers and in the second shot 1-of-5 with six turnovers. That meant that the Blue Eagles had more turnovers (17) than shots (14). And they only had nine points in 16 minutes, as St. John Vianney’s press was lethal.
By then, SJV had a 40-9 lead and things were well under control.
“I think our defense was a main part of our game today,” guard Zoe Pero said.
It usually is for the Lancers, who seem to thrive on it. Coach Dawn Karpell feels her team buys into it, if only because they understand how important it is. Sounds easy, but not a lot of teams (at any level) understand that.
“For this group it’s whatever it’s gonna take to win,” Karpell said. “I’m really, really lucky as a coach I don’t have to get them to buy into anything. They just do it because one, they want to win, and two, I think they love playing with each other and they don’t want it to end.
“If (playing good defense) is what it’s gonna take for us to get it done, then that’s what they’re gonna do. It’s a privilege to be able to coach kids that just want to win and compete so badly as this group does. So it makes it really enjoyable and pretty easy for me to coach them.”
IHA entered the game with two players going to Division I in forward Jordan Wilmoth and center Megan Swords. They combine to average 27 points and were held to 19. More importantly, they had a combined seven in the first half when the game was decided.
Gigi Caponegro and Kimi Evans were two of the main defenders on the IHA duo, getting the usual help from Kelly Campbell.
“I know I’m not that big of an offensive player so I enjoy defense, getting the stop and just helping my teammates out on the offensive end,” Caponegro said. “I kind of love taking the challenge and it gives coach the confidence in me to play defense and shut the kid down from scoring.”
“I’ve played really big girls in the past,” Evans said. “Coming out here I knew I had to shut down their center. I had to play really hard on defense and stop her from scoring. Coming out and being able to stop her, it made me really excited I could do that for my team and help us out that way.”
The same can be said on the perimeter, where Vanessa Pinho is as feisty as it gets.
“I’m not the best offensive player, defense is the biggest part of my game,” Pinho said. “To be able to accept the challenge on a girl that’s a shooter, you make sure you’re gonna shut it down. I love being able to complete the challenge of not letting the girl score or letting her score minimal points.”
Karpell said that since Wilmoth was the Blue Eagles primary ball handler, they trapped her early to force other players to handle the ball.
“They all executed it quite well and we had them frazzled in playing faster than they wanted to, which was the objective,” Karpell said. “First in the press, and then in the half court.”
And by then, it was all over but the trophy presentation. [[In-content Ad]]