CHERRY HILL – It seemed as if the Rancocas Valley High School girls basketball team was going to be in for a lot of trouble.
Not only were the Red Devils facing a road game against Camden Catholic, the No. 1 team in South Jersey according to the South Jersey Sports Digest, but they were doing it without three regulars – all out with injuries.
Coaches and players alike will tell you that’s not a good formula for success. But somebody forgot to inform the Red Devils.
No. 4 Rancocas parlayed an aggressive defensive game-plan along with a two-pronged offensive attack that featured 21 points from Lauren Lewis and 16 from Jaylin Van Dunk and left the Irish gym with a 55-46 win Saturday in a non-conference game.
“Since we lost three players everybody had to step up,” said Van Dunk, a 5-foot point guard with lightning speed. “We lost to Trenton Catholic Thursday, so this was a big game for us. We lost a lot of power points and we had to gain them back.”
Coach Anthony Corrado said he was proud of the effort his team put out, especially on defense. After falling behind 13-5 near the end of the first quarter, the Red Devils limited the Irish to 33 the rest of the game.
“We switched to a zone and it was working for us,” he said. “We had girls come in off the bench who don’t normally come off the bench and they did an outstanding job.
“I thought we played very composed. We knew what their strengths were and I thought we did a good job of taking them away.”
Corrado was referring to Camden Catholic’s Katie Deutsch, who was limited to 15 points and Elaina Santana, who finished with 12.
They were both contained in the second and third quarters when Rancocas took control of the game, and the Red Devils then continued to maintain the lead throughout the fourth quarter.
One of the reasons the Red Devils were able to stay safely ahead was the shooting of Lewis, who converted three 3-point goals.
She addressed the issue of having to fill in for the injured players, including her fellow senior Brianna Boyd.
“Since I was the only senior that was starting tonight I knew I had to step up as an individual,” she said. “Also I knew the others on the team were going to have to do something as well so I told everyone just play your game. I knew we could beat them, and we did.”
It took a while for the Red Devils to settle into the game. Maggie Bednarek scored six points and Deutsch score four to held Camden Catholic get out to a 13-7 lead at the end of one quarter.
But the Red Devils more than made up for the difference by going on a 20-10 run that lasted through most of the second quarter.
Van Dunk scored 10 of her points in the quarter to help Rancocas open a 25-23 halftime lead.
“We just had to regroup,” Corrado said. “We used our speed tonight. I thought we spread them out well. We got to the basket and got some layups. We made some big foul shots, and when we needed it we got some stops and that was important.”
The Red Devils put together what was probably their best stretch when they opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run as Lewis hit a 3-point goal and then added two free throws.
Kayla Willams added two free throws as the Red Devils went up 33-23.
But then the Irish answered with a run of their own. A 9-2 burst, capped by Annaliah Maldanodo’s 3-point goal closed the deficit to 35-32.
The spread remained tight until the Rancocas defense broke it open.
Lewis and Alexis Linto executed back-to-back steals than led to layups and the Red Devils took a safe 51-40 lead.
The Irish got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Rancocas Valley 7 18 12 18 -55
Camden Catholic 13 10 11 12 -46
RV: Lauren Lewis 21, Jaylin Van Dunk 16, Kayla Williams 11, Jayda Love 3, Grace Wallace 1, Lexis Linton 4.
CC: Maggie Bednarek 8, Katie Deutsch 15, Elaina Santana 12, Kayla Johnson 2, Anniliah Moldanodo 9.