CHERRY HILL – Kate Deutsch entered this season as no stranger to anyone who has followed South Jersey basketball over the past couple of years.
Now a senior at Camden Catholic High School, the front-court star stands as one of only a handful of prospects who are expected to make a run at player of the year honors.
After her play on opening night, Deutsch left nothing to diminish those expectations.
Deutsch used her full array of skillful moves around the basket to score 27 points as the Irish turned back a talented, but young Eastern team, 57-36, in an Olympic Conference interdivision game.
Deutsch comes into the season knowing expectations for her are high. She does not shy away from the responsibility of taking a role as a team leader.
“I love the challenge,” she said. “Since I was a freshman I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. Lots of people are expecting things from me, but I love to step up to the challenge and help my team out.”
Her persistence under the basket, her ability to grab a rebound and her execution in finding the basket from close range were all elements of her performance on Friday night.
Deutsch’s performance came as no surprise to veteran Camden Catholic coach Chris Palladino, who has come to expect a lot from her star player.
“Kate does all the little things,” said Palladino. “She boxes out, she rebounds, she plays good defense, and she hits those little shots. She’s tough underneath.”
According to the coach, Deutsch excels because she knows how to employ all of her skills.
“She does what she’s supposed to do,” Palladino said. “She’s quick, she’s strong and she uses her body well. I don’t know, she just plays.”
Deutsch began the game slowly with four points in the first quarter during a time when the Irish actually trailed 8-7 at one point. But once she found her rhythm she could not be stopped.
At one point she scored seven points in a row for her team in the second quarter and that’s when the Irish pulled away to put the game well out of reach.
“With our athletic ability, I think we are capable of having a shutdown defense,” said Eastern coach Joe Murphy. “But when you don’t have size, and they can beat up on you for four quarters – that’s the difference.”
For her part, Deutsch credited her teammates with helping her overcome her start.
“I had my head down,” she said. “I kept missing layups, and I was really nervous I guess. But it was my team and my coaches. My coach sat me down and said, `you got this,’ and my team lifted me up too.
“They told me to keep my head up, and I wanted to do it for the team.”
While Deutsch is one of the players taking a leadership role, Palladino has others who are ready to do their part to held lend to the team’s success.
On Friday, Elana Santana added 12 points to the win, and Deustch’s fellow seniors Kayla Johnson and Maggie Bednarek (10 points) filled their roles nicely as complementary players.
Santana talked about how it took the Irish a couple of minutes to get started before the offense got into a flow.
“In the beginning we were moving a little slow,” she said. “It was our first game, and I think we were a little nervous. But once we got the ball movement going, everything started going like it was supposed to. We started working as a team.”
Kelli McGroarty led Eastern with 10 points, but the Eastern offense couldn’t keep up with the Irish.
The Vikings were held without a point from the 4:40 mark of the first quarter to the 4:50 mark of the second quarter, and that’s when the game got away.
Eastern 8 7 10 12-36
Camden Catholic 18 12 13-13-57
Eastern: Danielle Jackson 6, Gabby Payne 8, Anna Accardo 7, Kelli McGroarty 10, Chyna Boorks 1. Gianna Roolo 5
Camden Catholic: Maggie Bednarek 9, Kate Deutsch 27, Elana Santanna 12, Kalya Johnson 8, Analiath Haldonardo 1.