Girls Basketball – Tournament of Champions Final Preview: St. John Vianney Looks to Close Book on TOC
NJSIAA Tournament of Champions
Sunday, March 20, 2022
No. 1 St. John Vianney (31-1) vs. No. 3 Rutgers Prep (29-2), 4 p.m. - Watch Live
Since its inception in 1989, the Tournament of Champions in New Jersey has been the domain of two basketball programs in New Jersey: the St. Anthony boys and the St. John Vianney girls.
As the Tournament of Champions Era in New Jersey comes to an end – five years after St. Anthony of Jersey City played its last season before shutting its doors – the final championship game ever played will have, at the very least a fitting participant. If St. John Vianney plays one more game like the 32 others the Lancers have played this season, it will also have a fitting final champion.
St. John Vianney’s girls basketball program has collected seven Tournament of Champions titles over the years, which is more than any other girls program and second only to the St. Anthony boys team (13) between both boys and girls programs.
When the program standard is to be the last team standing and holding the trophy in the Tournament of Champions, it’s hard to label any one team throughout the years as the best ever, but this Lancers squad is in the running for the best team in program history. By the end of the game, if St. John Vianney can beat Rutgers Prep for a second time this season, the case for the 2021-22 Lancers team being the best ever might be an overwhelming one.
“To be in that caliber, to be one of the best teams to come out of St. John Vianney, everyone would be honored,” senior guard, Princeton commit and New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year Madison St. Rose said. “Once we play the TOC final, I feel like we’ll still be up there whether we win or lose.”
Sixteen-year head coach Dawn Karpell is as qualified to break down the argument as anyone given she has won the Tournament of Champions at St. John Vianney as both a Player during the spectacular program run of the 1990’s and as a coach in both 2009 and 2016. Despite that standing, she hasn’t given this year’s team the seal of approval as the best ever just year, although perhaps that changes if they can complete the journey to a championship.
“Our history is our history and we're super excited, because for these kids, it's their first time,” said Karpell, who last led the Lancers to a T of C championship in 2016 and led SJV to the No. 1 ranking in the state in each of the last two years while the T of C was canceled in each season. "For them, it's a special opportunity since it's their first time coming to it.”
To finish the job, St. John Vianney will have to get through a Rutgers Prep squad that will be playing in the T of C final for the first time in program history after making it to the semifinals in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017 – including as the No. 1 seed in the 2017 T of C. The Argonauts have lost just once to a team from New Jersey this season and, sure enough, that loss came against St. John Vianney on Feb. 13 at Kean University.
Not only did St. John Vianney win that battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state; the Lancers completely dominated it. Having just handily beaten Saddle River Day in a 1-vs.-2 matchup eight days earlier, St. John Vianney resoundingly defended its No. 1 spot by routing Rutgers Prep, 87-48, with a colossal second-half advantage.
Despite the result from five weeks ago, the Lancers are not taking lightly a motivated Argonauts team, nor are they taking lightly the chance to turn in a memorable performance in their last game together while also playing in the last ever Tournament of Champions final.
“I think they are super excited to play us again,” Karpell said of Rutgers Prep. “They probably didn’t play their best game when they played us, so they have been preparing and they are going to be ready to come after us with all they have. We have to keep that intensity.
“I just want to play to the best of our potential. We’ve talked about that this year, how it’s about us and how we attack things. I just want them to go out with their best.”
St. John Vianney at a Glance
Head Coach: Dawn Karpell
TOC Championships: 7 (2016, 2009, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1993, 1991)
TOC Championship Appearances: 10 (2016, 2010, 2009, 2005, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1993, 1991, 1990)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 8 Immaculata, 95-30, in South Non-Public A quarterfinals; defeated No. 5 Camden Catholic, 79-33, in South NPA semifinals; defeated No. 2 Paul VI, 69-50, in South NPA Final; defeated No. 1 Immaculate Heart, 74-36, in NPA final; defeated No. 4 Sparta in Tournament of Champions semifinal
St. John Vianney Starting Lineup
Ashley O’Connor, Sr., Guard
Zoe Brooks, Jr., Guard
Madison St. Rose, Sr., Guard
Megan Cahalan, Sr., Center
Janie Bachmann, Jr., Forward
Lancers off the Bench
Bre Delaney, Jr., Guard/Forward
Julia Karpell, So., Guard
Ashley Sofilkanich, Jr., Forward
Mikaela Hubbard, Jr., Center
Ciera Cavallos, Jr., Guard
Aleena Dinker, Fr., Guard
Paige Knutsen, Sr., Forward
Rutgers Prep at a Glance
Head Coach: Mary Coyle Klinger
TOC Championships: None
TOC Championship Appearances: None
Road to the Final: Defeated Holy Spirit, 75-15, in South Non-Public B quarterfinals; defeated St. Rose, 64-34, in South NPB semifinals; defeated Wildwood Catholic, 67-36, in South NPB final; defeated No. 1 Saddle River Day, 62-51, in NPB final; defeated No. 6 University, 68-56, in Tournament of Champions quarterfinals; defeated No. 2 Manasquan, 64-48, in TOC semifinal
Rutgers Prep Starting Lineup
Leyla Castro, Sr., Guard
Mikayla Blakes, So., Guard
Morgan Ryan, Sr., Guard
Katie Ledden, Jr., Guard/Forward
Antonio Bates, Sr., Forward
Argonauts off the Bench
Chloe Escanilles, So., Guard
Zahra Alexander, So., Guard