Lancer players proud they restored tradition

SJV girls won school’s 12th state title

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

When you’re of the pedigree of St. John Vianney girls basketball, you don’t get to play the underdog very often.

However, the 2007-08 season afforded the Lancers just that, and the state’s most successful program made the most of it.

The Lancers restored SJV’s place among the state’s elite programs by capturing their 12th NJSIAA Non-Public A state title (a record) by defeating previously undefeated Morris Catholic, 59-57, and advancing to the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions.

“At first, it looked like a down year,” said junior guard Katelyn Linney. “We lost seven seniors and brought in a lot of freshmen.

“For us to come together like this is great, we were all along for the ride,” she said.

It turned into quite a ride.

“It’s been unbelievable,” she added. “We got St. John’s back to where it was. I’m very happy about that. I wanted us to bring back the tradition. There’s a lot of pride in the school.”

One member of the Lancers’ talented incoming freshmen who needed no introduction to the SJV tradition was Missy Repoli. Her old sister, Christine Repoli, was a member of the school’s 2003 state championship team. She is playing college ball at the College of Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass. The two had often talked about Missy joining her sister as a state champion at SJV.

“It’s so exciting that we both won it [state title],” Missy remarked.

It was a 3-pointer from the corner by Repoli that played a big part in SJV’s win over Morris Catholic in the Non-Public A final. Trailing by three with under a minute to play, she put up a 3-pointer she thought wasn’t going in. The ball caromed off the front of the iron and shot straight up in the air, eventually coming back down and landing inside the twine.

“It took an eternity for it to fall,” she recalled.

Repoli’s basket tied the game at 57-57.

It would be veteran Linney who would win the game from the foul line with under three seconds remaining in the game.

“Coach [Dawn] Karpell told us to be aggressive and attack the basket,” she said. “They would either foul us or let us go.”

Linney did as Karpell said, going strong to the basket. She was fouled and went to the line with the game and a state title on the line.

“I just blocked everything out,” said the guard who lives in Howell.

She sank them both and the Lancers had their state title and pride back.

“St. John’s was 11-0 in state title games,” Repoli pointed out. “We didn’t want to be the ones to lose it.”

In the middle of all the action was another freshman, Jackie Kates. It was her drive and dish that set up Repoli’s open jumper.

Kates credited the upperclassmen with helping the Lancers develop so quickly as a team this winter.

“A lot of the seniors and juniors included us in everything,” she pointed out. “We had to blend together in the beginning. After the second game of the season, we realized we were all great players and that if we played as a team, we could beat anybody in the state.”

Kates, a point guard, has gotten some very valuable tips over the years from older brother Mitchell Kates, the Colts Neck High School point guard, who won the 2008 Kerwin Award as the best player in the Shore.

“All the time he’s working with me,” said Kates. “He plays defense against me and gives me tips. I wouldn’t be able to dribble like I do without his help. He’s helped me with my shooting.”

Linney and Repoli agreed with Kates that it was the Lancer’s commitment to team that made it all possible.

“We needed to play as a team,” said Repoli, a guard from Marlboro.

Forwards Katie O’Reilly and Arron Zimmerman were the other incoming freshmen who had a big impact on the season. They made big contributions up front for the Lancers. Without their rebounding and inside scoring, shooters like Linney and Repoli wouldn’t have

the space to get open

shots and Kates’ lanes to penetrate.

Having secured the state title (the school’s first since 2005), the Lancers went to last week’s Tournament of Champions (TOC) one very loose squad, saving their best all-around game of the season for 28- 2 Trenton Catholic.

Hustling all over the court and getting to every loose ball before the Iron Mikes, the Lancers put on a clinic.An 11-0 runmidway through the second period opened up a 29- 19 lead and there was no looking back. The Lancers, playingwith unbridled intensity on defense with Linney (20 points) and Repoli (14) hitting everything fromthe outside and Kates breaking the Iron Mikes defense down, rolled to a 68-52 upset.

“We had been trying to put a whole game together,” said Linney, who added that this was the game where they did.

Malcolm X Shabazz of Newark (29-2) would put the breaks on SJV’s ride in Thursday night’s TOC semifinal at the Ritacco Center, beating the Lancers (26-5), 75-35. However, the loss could not diminish the pride that the team had restored, or its very bright future.

Linney scored a game-high 21 in the loss, giving her 41 points in her first two TOC games.