Watching Veyoni Davis on a basketball court sometimes feels a bit like watching bumper cars at the Jersey Shore.
Davis, a sophomore guard, doesn’t just welcome contact — it’s as if she’s seeking it out.
Several times on Sunday, she ended up in the bleachers after a hard foul. Defensively, she’s like a free safety in football, jumping routes, laying out for ill-advised passes.
Davis is all energy.
And Sunday afternoon, she embodied a wall-to-wall, full-throttle effort by her Moorestown Friends’ girls’ basketball team in a 68-45 win over Clearview in the South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament championship at Eastern.
This was Moorestown Friends’ first trip to the SJIBT finals.
“It feels amazing to win this tournament,” said Davis, who chipped in 20 points and three steals. “This was a painful game, physically. But once you get through the pain — those hits, they inspire you, they make you energized.”
The win was particularly emotional for Davis, whose grandmother died Saturday.
“She was my best friend,” Davis said. “I never once for a second considered not playing tonight. So it just felt amazing to dedicate this win to her.”
As usual, Bella Runyan was also locked in for the Foxes (17-4). She finished with a game-high 27 points. Also not one to shy away from contact, Runyan made seven trips to the foul line and hit 13 of 14 free throws. She also had five steals, including three in the second half that she turned into fast-break points.
“It feels great to win something like this in my senior year of basketball,” Runyan said. “I tried to make sure I was constantly talking all game — my mouth is still so dry. Every single time on defense, we were talking. And it worked.”
For the first time in her life, Runyan played against her best friend, Bella Steidle of Clearview. The two Bellas have played basketball together on the same team since fourth grade and are standouts on a top-level AAU team called, go figure, the Philadelphia Belles.
“There were moments in the game where that just felt really weird seeing her in another uniform,” Runyan said. “Her family is like a second family to me, so having to play against family is weird. But it was fun.”
Steidle, who came into the game averaging almost 17 points per game, was quiet for most of Sunday night and held to 12 points thanks to a team effort by Moorestown Friends in its typical zone defense.
Steidle is a senior and one of the premier players in South Jersey. She’s also one of the few upperclassmen on a team that prominently features three talented freshmen.
Ultimately, experience looked like it made a difference for the Foxes.
“We’ve played in this gym many times in this SJIBT Tournament, and I think that was a big factor,” Runyan said. “But props to their freshmen, they’re amazing and they’re going to be very good over the next couple of years.”
Two of those Clearview freshmen, Kassidy Thompson (12 points) and Aaryn Battle (14), scored in double figures. Still, out of the gate, Moorestown Friends looked sharper and more primed for the moment.
Foxes junior forward Sara Coppola, a transfer from Neumann Goretti in South Philadelphia, made a long two-pointer on the first possession of the game. She sank a three-pointer on her team’s next possession, and Moorestown Friends never looked back.
The team was up by as many as nine in the first quarter, and in the midst of energetic and physical basketball by both teams, Clearview (20-2) never managed to get back in the game.
“It just feels so good to win this tournament,” said Coppola who finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds. “I feel at home here. We were all pumping each other up before the game, we want to start off strong early, and we were able to physically bring a lot of energy into this win.”
Clearview 12 7 12 14 - 45
Moorestown Friends 17 15 15 21 - 68
C: Bella Steidle 12, Kassidy Thompson 12, Aaryn Battle 14, Emma Steidle 14, Olivia Marchel 4, Emma Steidle 3.
MF: Bella Runyan 27, Veyoni Davis 20, Sara Coppola 11, Roni Kennedy