South Jersey Non-Public A Girls’ Basketball Tournament Preview: St. John Vianney the Strong Favorite

South Jersey Non-Public A Girls’ Basketball Tournament Preview: St. John Vianney the Strong Favorite
The South Jersey Non-Public A girls’ basketball tournament should be among the most competitive in the state. Paul VI, considered among the best teams in South Jersey, is only a No. 4 seed. That tells how difficult this field is.
 
The tournament has already started, but most of the top seeds won’t play until the quarterfinal round. Here is a look at the tournament:
 
Quarterfinal round: March 6
Semifinals: March 9
Finals: March 11
State finals: March 15
 
Defending champion: St. Rose beat St. John Vianney, 61-54 in the championship
 
What stands out: The field. St. John Vianney has been the No. 1 team in the state, according to NJ.com, but the Lancers only earned a No. 2 seed. St. Rose, is going for its third straight sectional title, but the Purple Roses are only seeded fifth.
 
Outlook: St. John Vianney is the favorite, but Paul VI, St. Rose, and top seeded Red Bank Catholic bear watching. Just last week, St. Rose lost to St. John Vianney, 70-63 in the Shore Conference semifinals. Sophomore guard Madison St. John is averaging more than 18 points per game for the St. John Vianney. The Lancers won the Shore Conference Tournament with Saturday’s 57-50 win over Manchester Township as St. John scored 23 points.
 
Red Bank Catholic advanced to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. Frontcourt standout Ally Carmen, a sophomore, is the leading scorer for the Caseys, averaging 13.6 points per game.
 
Besides Paul VI, there are two other teams in the field from the seven-county South Jersey area – No. 3 seeded Bishop Eustace and No. 11 Camden Catholic. Ironically, all three teams play in the Olympic Conference National Division.
 
Paul VI (24-2) will enter the tournament on a 14-game winning streak. Among the wins was a 64-40 victory over previously unbeaten Cherokee, which was the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey at the time.
 
Paul VI split with Bishop Eustace, losing 44-37 on Jan. 16 in a road game and winning at home, 62-47 on Feb. 11.
 
This is a relatively young Paul VI team, with freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo leading the Eagles in scoring. Hidalgo is a dynamic player, who can play point guard, or also prosper while playing off the ball. She is averaging 17 points per game. Senior Abaigeal Babore has earned a scholarship to Division II Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Like Hidalgo, Babore can play either guard position. She is averaging 13.8 points.
 
In the victory over Eustace, Hidalgo scored 20 points and Babore added 13.
 
After earning a bye, Paul VI will have a tough quarterfinal game against the winner of St. Rose and Immaculata.
 
Eustace is the No. 3 seed. The Crusaders will meet the winner of No. 6 St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 11 Camden Catholic in the quarterfinal.
 
Bishop Eustace tied Paul VI for the Olympic National title. Lauren Punk, a 5-11 senior, is averaging a team-high 12.2 points per game for the Crusaders.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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