VOORHEES-- As the Bishop Eustace girls basketball players sprinted into the locker room at Eastern, they knew they could play much better than they did in the first half.
Even with a five-point advantage going into the locker room, the Crusaders needed to improve their play against Rancocas Valley in the South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament semifinals.
A strong second half led to a 53-30 victory over RV to advance to Sunday’s final at 4:30 p.m. ET.
“At halftime, we went in and said we’re 6-for-26 in the first half, 4-for-12 from the free-throw line and you’re up five,” Eustace head coach John Considine said. "(I told them) just calm down. We’re all good.”
Eustace began to exploit its size advantage in the paint in the third quarter, as Lauren Punk scored eight of her 17 points in the third.
“I think we knew they didn’t have the bigs that we did and when we fast break and run, it all opens up,” Punk said.
“Our plan was to get it inside,” Considine said. “We knew one of their players had three fouls. She was playing against our post players and they moved her out to the top. But we still wanted to get it inside, where we thought we had an advantage over them.”
Eustace carried some energy into the locker room, as Madison Grubb knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired to finish off an 8-0 run to end the first half.
“When Maddie hits a three, everyone gets up and we get the momentum, the energy,” Punk said.
The victory provided another huge boost for the Crusaders, who were eliminated in the semifinals of the SJIBT in each of the last two seasons.
“I wanted to win,” Punk said. “We haven’t made it to the championship the last two years. People were doubting us this year. I didn’t have the best first half so I came out and I wanted it.”