The Paul VI girls won their 15th straight VISAA championship Saturday after at Benedictine, in Richmond.

Paul VI girls win 15th straight VISAA Division I title

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Saturday afternoon in Richmond the Paul VI girls won their 15th straight VISAA Division I state title, 60-48 over St. Anne’s Belfield.

Paul VI didn’t win the tournament last year, but that was because it wasn’t held due to COVID. This year after victories over Flint Hill, St. Gertrude’s, and Belfield, it was back to business as usual for the Panthers.

It wasn’t quite business as usual, though. Scott Allen, the Panthers’ head coach, missed the game. He’s been out-of-state caring for his ailing mother for several weeks. Assistant coach Jeff Benjamin has been in charge since Allen took his leave.

“I’m just glad I wasn’t the guy to blow the streak,” Benjamin joked after the game.

Paul VI junior Asia Boone drives through the lane in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.

Benjamin is a very capable coach, and Allen has been helping the team from afar, so it’s really no shock the Panthers (22-8) streak continued. On Saturday St. Anne’s got up early in the first quarter, but Paul VI didn’t need a time out to settle down. The Panthers went on a run and led 20-10 after a quarter.

Then it was the Panthers’ trademark defense that clamped down on the Saints. Paul VI held STAB to six second quarter points, and limited Saints star Kymora Johnson to four first half points total. At half, the longtime champions led 30-16.

The Saints (20-2) came out of the locker room with a 6-0 run, but Louis Volker found fellow junior Brooke Batchelor open for a three to squash STAB’s momentum. Batchelor and senior Alison Kunzwiler each buried another three-pointer in the third quarter to help power a 13-1 run, and the Panthers led 43-23.

Johnson hit some shots late to close the deficit, though Paul VI maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. While Johnson finished with 16 points, she did so on 8-25 shooting from the field. On the afternoon the Panthers held Belfield to a just over 25% field goal percentage.

Sophomore Laura Williams led the Panther dominance on the boards, contributing 10 rebounds.

On offense Volker paced her team with 14 points and nine rebounds. Batchelor added 13, and sophomore center Laura Williams made a big impact off the bench with seven points and 10 boards. Paul VI outrebounded its opponent 52-32, rarely letting the Saints get second-chance opportunities.

“They beat us up on the glass,” STAB coach Phil Stinnie said after the game.

In short, it was a typical Panthers win under atypical circumstances.

“They’ve been really resilient through it all,” said Benjamin when asked how the kids have dealt with COVID, the absence of Coach Allen, and other adversity. “We have seven seniors and they’re such great kids that we just went on without missing a beat. Scott’s such a great coach, it was a big loss not having him.”

“Proud of the kids.”

–Chris Jollay

all stats are unofficial

ALISON KUNZWILER 1-3 0-0  3  2  2
BATCHELOR 4-11 2-2 13  4  3
HAMBURGER 2-7 2-5  7  6  0
VOLKER 6-10 2-2  14  9  2
TALLEY 2-9 3-4  7  8  2
Hastick 1-2 1-1  3  5  3
Boone 0-8 2-3  2  6  3
Costigan 1-3 0-0  2  0  0
Williams 3-9 1-2  7  10  0
Eisner 0-0 0-0  0  1  0
Holler 0-0 2-2  2  0  0
Vandergrift 0-0 0-0  0  1  0
TOTALS 20-62 15-21  60  52  15
Threes: Batchelor 3-8, Hamburger 1-1, Alison Kunzwiler 1-2, Volker 0-1, Boone 0-5
LEWIS 0-4 2-2  2   1   1
WAGNER 5-15 1-1  13   4   1
STEPPE 1-3 2-4   4   5   1
JOHNSON 6-25 2-4  16   8   1
RICE 3-9 4-6  10  10   2
Gangemi 0-0 0-0   0   2   0
Adkins 0-4 0-0   0   1   0
Fitzgerald 1-3 0-0   3   1   0
TOTALS 16-63 11-17  48   32   6
Threes: Wagner 2-8, Johnson 2-10, Fitzgerald 1-4, Lewis 0-1, Adkins 0-3