St. John Vianney certainly wasn’t 39 points better than Rutgers Prep. Everyone knew that after the first time the two girls’ basketball teams met in February up at Kean.
In the end, the Lady Lancers were 20 points better.
Third-seed Rutgers Prep fell behind big early, rallied from 15 points down to get to within six late in the first half, but could never get any closer as top-seed St. John Vianney claimed its record eighth Tournament of Champions crown, with a 72-52 win over the Lady Argonauts.
It was the third TOC win for 14th-year head coach Dawn Karpell, who won in her first season (2009) and in her program’s last trip (2016).
It was also the final Tournament of Champions event in basketball, as the NJSIAA has decided to scrap the tourney – which isn’t played in all sports – for the sake of uniformity between seasons, and allowing student-athletes some time off in between seasons.
Short of a brief spell midway through the second quarter when they rallied, Rutgers Prep never really got going, falling behind 8-0 out of the gate before Mary Klinger called a time out to stop the bleeding. But the deficit climbed to 15 beforfe the Argos showed signs off offense.
Trouble was, they couldn’t get a good long-distance look thanks to SJV’s pesky perimeter defense, and every time they were able to get a ball in the paint, the Lady Lancers had two defenders on the ball.
Turnovers – though not as much of an issue as the first meeting on Super Bowl Sunday at Kean University in Union – still plagued Rutgers Prep, which committed 21 to Vianney’s 12. That led to an all-important 25-14 SJV advantage on points off turnovers.
Sophomore Mikayla Blakes led Rutgers Prep with 18, finishing off a solid sophomore year. And she’ll be among a number of key returnees next year, including junior Katie Ledden – who had 8 – and 5′ 8″ sophomore Zahra Alexander, who had some nifty baskets en route to a 12 point game, two shy of a career high she set in a 75-15 sectional semifinal win against Holy Spirit, in nowhere near as big a game with as big an opponent as this one.
Vianney – which finishes the season 32-1 – was led by – who else? – senior Madison St. Rose and junior Zoe Brooks. The Princeton-bound St. Rose had a game-high 21, finishing her career with 1,747 points, while Brooks chipped in 14, and will have 1,260 heading into her senior year.
The Argonauts finish 29-3, with two of the three losses coming to St. John Vianney; the third was at the hands of Westtown (PA).
Click below to hear postgame reaction from Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger: