North Xtra: Vincentian keeps driving toward state crown

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Last year's loss in the PIAA championship game left a bad taste in the mouths of Vincentian Academy's players, a taste they couldn't wait to get rid of.

They vowed to each other to never give up until they return to the place of their heartbreak, Hershey's Giant Center.

It is never easy to make it to the state championship game but the Royals managed to do it in back-to-back years after finishing off Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA semifinals for the second year in a row on Tuesday.

"It feels absolutely incredible," junior Brenna Wise said. "We worked all season for this. We had unfinished business the whole way and we are coming for it.

"We came in second last year and I remember that feeling. We have that in our hearts and in our minds and we are not going to feel that again."

Wise has been the number one reason why the Royals have reached Hershey two years in a row. She is the Royals leading scorer and that proved to be evident in her double-double in the semifinals consisting of 38 points and 10 rebounds.

"She is one of a kind," coach Ron Moncrief said. "She is a special kid. She is such a nice person off the court and she is a monster on the court. There is only one Brenna Wise in this world and I would rather have her on my team than to play against her. She makes my job a lot easier."

Vincentian has one state title in its program's history, hoisting the trophy back in 2002 as a Class AA school. Although the Royals have been one of the best in the WPIAL, winning titles three years in a row and five out of the past seven, Moncrief knows winning that state championship puts the program at another level.

"It would mean the world to us," Moncrief said. "To be number one in the state has been our goal.

"Winning your district is a lot of fun, but there's a lot of district champions in Pennsylvania. It would mean a lot to the whole program, to me as a coach, the players, the fans and the administration to win a state title."

All season long the Royals have had only one goal in mind and that was to get back to the state championship game. With the experience they gained last year, Moncrief sees that as a positive to this year's squad.

"It has been in the back of our minds all year," Moncrief said. "It left a bad taste in our mouths. It was nice to get there but we want to finish the job this time. We know what to expect this year.

"I just think they are more seasoned. Last year we were good. We faced a lot of adversity this year."

The Royals currently stand at 26-3 and are riding a nine-game winning streak. Through their season, the Royals have gained more trust in each other and instead of treating each other as teammates, they view themselves as family members.

"We are a family," Wise said. "We win together, we lose together, we cry together, we pray together. We do everything together. We started in November and it is now March. That is a long time to be together but we trust each other and play as a family. We have one more step to finish it."

Vincentian will match up against Old Forge at noon Saturday at the Giant Center for the chance to capture their first PIAA Class A championship.

"It means a lot," Moncrief said. "It is awesome to go back-to-back but we are trying to win it this time instead of getting silver."

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