There were moments when a look in a player’s eye — or a fleeting expression — showed they were tired.
Moorestown Friends was working hard. But the Foxes were laboring in the first half — it was clear — and they were losing.
And that’s what made the second half such a clear example of why the Foxes are so special this season.
The second half was all energy. It was a gut-check type of effort. It was the Foxes brushing aside that feeling of being on empty — emotionally and physically — and refusing to lose in Sunday afternoon’s South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament matchup with Shawnee.
“I think we were in our own heads a little bit [in the first half] — I know I was — but we encouraged each other, we kept our composure, and we pulled out the win,” said senior guard Bella Runyan after Moorestown Friends beat Shawnee, 49-41, to advance to the program’s first tournament semifinals, next weekend against the winner of Sterling and Eastern.
The win was a major bounce-back for Moorestown Friends after an emotional loss to Westtown in Friday night’s Friends League title game — a drain as much mentally as physically.
Players admitted to something of a hangover effect from the 55-46 loss that would have marked the first ever Friends League title for the Foxes.
The players addressed that lingering feeling at halftime, and they corrected it.
“We started off a little bit shaky,” Runyan said. “But we were able to get in the swing of things. Props to Shawnee for not giving up. But I’m excited for my team.”
Runyan filled up the stat sheet. After not scoring in the first quarter, she finished with 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a whopping nine steals.
Sophomore guard Veyoni Davis also turned in a gutsy, physical performance while generating 19 points, three assists and three steals.
“To be honest, I was wondering how the team was going to respond,” said Foxes coach Mike Brunswick. “But we gutted it out. We played strong defense, made some shots and found our momentum.”
Moorestown Friends (14-4) trailed by 22-17 at halftime before coming out on fire in the third quarter.
Davis found a streaking Runyan for an easy layup to start the half. And Runyan came up with steals on the next three Renegades possessions, each leading to points in transition.
The Foxes opened up the half on 10-0 run — eight of those points were scored by Runyan — and took a lead that they never lost.
“We were motivating each other — screaming, clapping, everything we could do,” Davis said. “We are sisters, on and off the court, and we just knew how to motivate each other today.”
Still, Shawnee (7-12) didn’t go away. Senior forward Ciana Viccharelli scored 11 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. Her three-point play with four minutes left brought the Renegades to within one point.
But Davis answered right back on the ensuing possession, generating her own three-point play on a hard drive to the basket.
The Foxes managed to hang on largely because of relentless man-to-man defense — switched from a zone defense in the second quarter — and solid free-throw shooting.
Davis was 4 of 5 from the line in the final period while Runyan hit all six of her foul shots.
“Regardless of how much we were down by, we knew we could keep pushing and bounce back,” Davis said. “You learn from your losses, and today we were able to show what you can learn from a loss.”
Moorestown Friends 7 10 16 16 - 49
Shawnee 9 13 3 16 - 41
MF: Bella Runyan 20, Veyoni Davis 19, Sara Coppola 2, Roni Kennedy 4, Macey Wilkins 2, Blythe O’Connor 2.