There has been an inner struggle within the Gloucester Catholic girls' basketball team this season - players figuring out their roles, the team finding an identity, building chemistry. On Sunday afternoon, it appeared that the Rams had found what they were looking for.
Visiting Gloucester Catholic topped Camden Catholic, 44-35, in the South Jersey Non-Public Group A semifinals.
The win came after third-seeded Gloucester Catholic lost to second-seeded Camden Catholic in the South Jersey Invitational Tournament final on Feb. 15.
"It's an indescribable feeling," said junior forward Mary Gedaka, who scored 18 points. "This team has worked so hard all year. And this was a team effort today. We all played hard and it was just a great game."
Gedaka added seven rebounds and three steals. She dominated a crucial third period, scoring 11 points as the Rams outscored the Irish, 21-12, and built a 12-point lead.
Defensively, point guard Naiyana Sabb had one of her best games since transferring from Wildwood Catholic in the offseason. She helped disrupt the rhythm of the Irish's three heralded guards. She was glued to the team's top scorer, Taiah Thornton, and held her scoreless for the game.
"I just had to stop penetration and close out," Sabb said. "But everybody is participating on this team now, and that's been really big for us."
Added coach Lisa Gedaka: "I think it was just a matter of us coming together. It's been here and there in terms of us coming together for the whole year. . . . But I thought we came together well as a team. And we took what they were giving us. We didn't force anything."
The Rams (24-4) took control of the game after establishing their first lead during an 8-0 run in the second quarter. They never lost the lead despite relentless pressure from Camden Catholic.
"We couldn't hit shots," said Camden Catholic coach Chris Palladino, whose team finished with a 24-4 record and will return four starters next year. "Defensively, we played well. We held them to 44 points, but we just couldn't score."
The Rams move on to the championship game for the third straight year. They will play St. John Vianney, the top seed in the tournament and one of the best teams in the state, for the second straight year on Tuesday night.
Gloucester Catholic 3 11 21 9 - 44
Camden Catholic 6 5 12 12 - 35
GC: Mary Gedaka 18, Maggie McIntyre 5, Kennedi Thompson 6, Danielle Sanderlin 10, Naiyana Sabb 5.