The Saint John Vianney High School girls’ basketball team flashed its dominance again when it broke free from a tight early going in its recent game with Red Bank Regional High School.
Saint John Vianney, one of the state’s premier programs, held a lead of just two points after one quarter, but then the Lancers exploded and rolled to an 84-39 victory on Dec. 19 in Little Silver.
A 25-7 effort in the second quarter enabled Saint John Vianney to coast to the triumph that left the Lancers with a 2-0 record.
The Lancers received major contributions from senior forward Sarah Furch, who scored 19 points; junior guard Sajada Bonner, who registered 14 points; and junior Brelynn Bellamy, who ended with nine points.
Red Bank Regional was led by junior Meghan Murray, who collected 17 points. Sophomore Grace Goodwyn finished with eight points, and freshman Caitlyn Decker hit on seven points for the Buccaneers.
Dawn Karpell, Saint John Vianney’s coach, pointed out that Red Bank Regional’s showing in the first quarter was a lesson learned by the Lancers.
“Red Bank came out with a lot of energy early,” she said. “Being the second game of the season, it was good for us to have them come out and challenge them in that way. It showed some things that we need to improve on. After the first quarter, I think we caught our composure and started to focus a little better. We got higher percentage shots after that, and we were able to get rolling.”
Karpell believed the early test will help her team.
“We have a lot of room to grow,” she said. “We just talked about it in the locker room. Each time we step on the court, we need to make sure that we’re getting better. So tonight, Red Bank showed us a different offense than we’re used to and defensively, they were doing some new things as well. So, we want to take that and use it and improve on it in the future.”
Bonner admitted the team didn’t play its best game, but she was happy the Lancers were able to connect on more of their style of play later in the game.
“I think that we played well,” Bonner said. “We had a shaky first half, but we came back and really dominated in the end. We were able to pull it out in the end.”
Bonner has high expectations for the team, but she also wants the team to focus on the task at hand.
“We do want to take it one game at a time,” Bonner said. “But our ultimate goal is to win the Tournament of Champions and to get a Shore Conference championship.”
The Lancers improved to 3-0 on the season when they traveled to Newark on Dec. 21 for a close, 60-58 victory over University High School.
The Lancers were scheduled to return home to play Holmdel High School on Dec. 22 before playing another game on their home court on Dec. 27 against Franklin High School. Franklin won the Tournament of Champions state title last winter.
Red Bank Regional’s record fell to 2-1 on the season following its loss to Saint John Vianney.
Buccaneers coach John Truhan and Decker praised the Lancers, but they were happy with how their team battled, especially in the first quarter.
“[In] the first quarter, we were there,” Truhan said. “It was a one-possession game after that first quarter. But after that, we have no varsity experience, and [Saint John Vianney has] everything. So, that’s one of the best teams in the state. So obviously, we have to maintain that for more than one quarter, but we’re very young. We’re in the embryo stage of where we want to be as a program, and they’re in the adult stage. So for us to be able to battle with them is good.
“Obviously, you want it to be for more than a quarter, and we’re not looking for moral victories, believe me. But it’s a good experience for a young team. It’s a good start.”
“They’re bigger and stronger than us,” Decker said about the Lancers. “That trap they run is very good. It was hard, but we fought till the end, and we played good defense for the most part, so that’s great.”
The two believe this experience will help Red Bank Regional over the course of the season.
“You want to play good teams like this, especially when you go against the private schools,” Truhan said of Saint John Vianney. “And [Karpell] is one of the best coaches on the planet, and they are one of the best programs on the planet. So you build on one quarter of success and see what happens the next time you play them. It should also help when you play the other teams on your schedule.”
“It shows us what to expect,” Decker said. “It proved that we have to get stronger. And we’re not going to get around by making bad passes. We need to fight to get open and trust each other.”