North Xtra: Vincentian leaves no doubt who's No. 1

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No one would ever want to call a loss in a state championship game a positive experience, but for the Vincentian Academy girls basketball team, the loss to Tri-Valley in the 2013 girls PIAA Class A state championship game was as effective as any chalk talk or film study that a coach could present.

"It helped a lot," said Royals coach Ron Moncrief fewer than 24 hours after his team completed a magical 27-3 season with a 58-34 victory against Old Forge in the PIAA Class A girls championship game this past Saturday at the same venue where they suffered that bitter defeat a year earlier, Hershey's Giant Center.

It was the second state championship for the Royals. The first took place in 2002 when the Royals won the Class AA championship with a 45-37 victory against Camp Hill Trinity of District 3. Current assistant Renee Robinson played on that team.

Other than Robinson, no member of the Royals team had tasted victory at the state championship level. In fact, a far less pleasant feeling prevailed.

"When we went there last year, it was our first time there," said Moncrief of the 59-42 loss. "We didn't know what to expect. This year, we knew what to expect on and off the court. And our players were a year older and more mature.

"That helped, and the loss last year motivated us this whole season. Getting there wasn't good enough. We wanted to win the gold this time."

As the whole team had matured, so had Brenna Wise, the Royals' 6-foot-1 do-everything standout talent. A year ago, she had an impressive game in a loss. This year, her game was just as impressive, and it was all the more special because it came in a state championship game.

"We all knew Brenna would have a good game," Moncrief said. "She took the loss last year hard, and she always steps up in big-time games."

Nowhere was that more evident than in the first quarter when Wise scored 12 of her game-high 21 points, the last three coming on a buzzer-beating 3-point goal to give the Royals an 18-9 lead.

Old Forge quickly fell behind, 20-9, just 25 seconds into the second quarter on a driving Wise layup, and the Royals enjoyed a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.

"We wanted to leave it all on the floor," Moncrief said. "The state title was important for all of us, and everyone fed off her energy. You need big-time players to make big-time plays in big-time games."

Wise will be back next year for her senior season, and she will be joined by starters Maia Joiner and Torrieonna Cash. Ally Bartoszewicz and Kayla Key are both graduating, Key already has signed a letter-of-intent to compete for Hampton University's track and field team in Virginia.

Moncrief is quite optimistic about his team's chances.

"Our goals are always the same: win the section, win the WPIAL and win the state championship," he said. "That's what we want to do, and I think we have a good chance of having another magical season."

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