MARLTON – The season has had its ups and downs for the Bishop Eustace Prep girls basketball team.
The Crusaders (11-5) have won their share of games, but there were a couple of losses that the players think could have been avoided with a little better effort on their part.
One way to erase some of those bad memories is to knock off the No. 1 team in South Jersey and that’s what the Crusader did.
Katie McShea led the way with 17 points as the No. 9 Crusaders knocked off top-ranked Cherokee, 34-32, Thursday in an Olympic Conference inter-division game.
“For us, we really needed to have a win,” said McShea. “We had a dry spurt where we really couldn’t pull out a win. This win showed that we can win as a team – we can pull out a game and that we are legit.”
Cherokee threatened at various times throughout the game, but Eustace led from start to finish. They sent the Chiefs (12-2) to their first loss this season against South Jersey competition.
“We beat a very good team that’s very well coached,” McShea said. “It’s a honor for us because it shows we are a good team and that we can play.”
Like his players, coach John Considine said the squad was in need of a big win in order to gain some momentum for the upcoming post season.
“We have been looking for a marquee,” he said.
“They played all 32 minutes this time. We’ve had some leads against some good teams at the half, and we haven’t come out with the same intensity and energy in the second half. But we did that tonight.”
Eustace controlled the tempo of the game and played shutdown defense under the direction of senior point guard Jenny Falconiero. She scored only three points on a 3-point goal, but her on-court leadership was one of the big aspects of the game.
“We went in with the attitude that no one is going to beat us,” Falconiero said. “Defense was key and executing on offense was key. We came out today and played as one unit. Defense won us our game.”
It was a taut defensive struggle for both teams. In the end, the Crusaders held onto the win, despite being outscored 7-1 in the fourth quarter.
However, McShea provided the Crusaders with a pretty consistent offensive contribution throughout the game. She scored six points in the first quarter when the Crusaders took a 13-10 lead added seven more in the third quarter as the margin reached 33-25.
Considine said McShea’s play has been the focal point of the Crusaders season.
“She’s very smart and very intense,” he said. “She never takes a minute off and she always knows what we’re trying to do. She’s a big reason why we won this game.”
Falconiero agreed that having McShea play well is one of the keys to the Crusaders’ success.
“She’s a threat inside, she shoots the `3’ and she spreads the court for us,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to guard her and teams have a hard time with that. So we’re really lucky to have her on the team.”
Ava Theirien led Cherokee with 12 points and Katie Cumminsky added 10.
Cumminsky came very close to playing the role of hero when she scored all of Cherokee’s seven points in the fourth quarter with two baskets and a 3-point goal.
The 3-pointer drew the Chiefs to within one point at 33-32 with two minutes to play, but the Crusaders pitched a shutout the rest of the way.
Neither team could muster a good shot over the ensuing seconds until McShea drew a foul with 37 seconds to play. She made one of two attempts to put the Cruaders up by a basket.
Cherokee ran the clock down to 19 seconds and then took a timeout, hoping to set up a tying or winning shot. But the Chiefs were blanketed by the Eustace defense and could not get off a good attempt.
Bishop Eustace 13 6 14 1- 34
Cherokee 10 4 11 7- 32
BE: Julia Raley 3, Katie Kempter 5, Katie McShea 17, Meghan McLaughlin 2, Lauren Punk 4, Jenny Falconiero 3.
CH: Lyndsay Craig 4, Katie Cumminsky 10, Ava Therien 12, Kennedy Wilborn 4, Alexa Therien 2.