VOORHEES – Perseverance paid off for Erica Barr and her Shawnee High School girls basketball teammates.
The Renegades trailed Bishop Eustace by four points with one minute to play Friday, but then rallied for a 42-41 win as Barr scored the winning basket with 2.1 seconds to play.
“There’s been a lot of games where we’ve folded in the fourth quarter,” said Barr. “But this time we told ourselves it’s not over. In the time out, Coach (Chrissy) McGovern told us it’s not over, and we really believed her.”
The win put No. 3-seed Shawnee into the Championship game of the SJIBT tournament where the Renegades will play No. 1 seed Cherokee Sunday afternoon at 4:40 at Eastern High School.
The defending champion Chiefs advanced to their third straight championship game with a 45-27 win over Camden Catholic as freshman Alexa Therien scored 17 points.
Shawnee trailed Eustace virtually the entire game, which seemed to have all but locked up the win when Katie Kempter threw in a 3-point goal with 1:01 to play.
The basket put the Crusaders on top 41-37, but Shawnee refused to quit on the game.
Barr spoke about how the Renegades have been inspired by the Eagles in their role as an underdog and she says the team wants to take on that persona.
“Even though we were the higher seed we still view ourselves as underdogs every game,” she said. “We’ve been battling. We’ve lost a lot of close ones and we really want to change our mentality for the post-season and really do better.”
McGovern credited her players for not giving up even when the outcome was very much in doubt.
“It was a relentless effort, the fight – not giving up,” she said. “I didn’t have to say we’re still in this. They were all like, `we got it; we’re still in it.’
"Their mindsets were just so locked in tonight.”
After the Kempter basket, Shawnee cut into the deficit 41-39 when Cianna Viccharelli (11 points) scored two free throws with 29 seconds left.
The Renegades then got to within one point when Cameron Morgan converted a free throw. Eustace had a chance to extend the lead, but missed on the first half of a one-and-one.
With renewed life, Shawnee brought the ball down, but appeared to have lost it out of bounds. However, Lauren Lodge made a diving save and Barr converted the winning layup.
“I was very nervous,” said Morgan. “I’m just glad we got the steal and got the win.”
Cienna Sanson joined Viccharelli with 11 points.
Meanwhile, Cherokee put on a strong performance to knock Camden Catholic out of the tournament. The Chiefs led from start to finish and never looked back after opening a 14-7 lead after the fist quarter.
The effort was ever more impressive considering the Chiefs leading scorer, Ava Therien, was slowed by the flu, while another starter, Kennedy Wilburn, sat out the entire game with an illness.
Their absences were made up for by the play of the younger Therien who, at times, seemed to carry the entire team on her back.
“My sister had the flu and she’s our No. 1 scorer, so I felt I had to step up,” Therien said. “Today was my day so I knew I had to get the job done for my team – for everyone.”
There were entire segments of the game in which Therien kept her team in front. For example, she scored all of the Chiefs seven points in the second quarter and she scored 13 in a row at one point.
Coach Ron Powell says he has seen Alexa grow as a player throughout the course of her freshman season.
“She’s come along as the season has moved along,” he said. “I think the nicest thing about her is that she’s only in ninth grade, so we’re going to get to her for the next three years.”
Though Cherokee led comfortably throughout the game, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Chiefs really broke things open.
They were ahead 27-21 to start the quarter, but had the lead up to 15 points within a couple of minutes.
Lindsay Craig complemented Therien with 10 points, while Katie Deutsch scored 11 for Camden Catholic.
Shawnee 8 8 14 12-42
Bishop Eustace 8 11 16 6-41
SH: Cameron Morgan 8, Erica Barr 5, Cianna Viccharelli 11, Siena Sanson 11, Lauren Lodge 6.
BE: Julia Radley 6, Lauren Punk 1, Katie Kemter 3, Meghan McLaughlin 10, Kaitly Deiter 2, Katie McShae 15.
Cherokee 14 7 6 18- 45
Camden Catholic 7 7 7 6-27
Ch: Alexa Therien 17, Ava Therien 8, Sarah Wallace 2, Katie Cumminsky 8, Lyndsay Craig 10.
CC: Annaliah Moldando 5, Abby Polioni 5, Elaina Santana 4, Katie Deutsch 11. Maggie Bednarek 2.