Big green basketball machine rolls into the state championship

The Father Kelly Express, the official team bus of the Bishop England Athletic Department, suffered a breakdown Thursday. That forced the Bishops to find an alternate mode of transportation to Saturday’s Class AA girls’ Lower State basketball championship, which was contested in Florence.

But there was nothing wrong with the big Green basketball machine, which keeps on rolling, rolling and rolling.
The Bishops pounded Dillon 62-47 to win their fifth straight Lower State title.

First, an update on the bus, which is named after the late Monsignor Robert Kelly, who was a beloved rector of the school for decades.

“We’re hoping that it’s a fuel injector,” said Paul Runey, who serves as the school’s athletic director and girls’ basketball coach. “It started acting up when the girls’ lacrosse team took it to Bluffton on Thursday night. We had to rent a regular school bus for our trip to Florence. We had to take (the Father Kelly Express) to the shop. Hopefully, it’s just a fuel injector and not the engine itself.”

Now, an update on the basketball team after its efforts at the Florence Civic Center. The Bishops pushed their record to 25-2 on the season, which gives the Bishops a 126-11 record over the last five years heading into Saturday’s state championship game against Keenan. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at the Colonial Life Arena.

It’s hard to imagine that a team with such a lofty record is just now playing its best basketball of the season, but that’s the case with the Bishops.

“If Saturday is any indication, then, yes, we are peaking at the right time,” Runey said. “I don’t think we played a more complete game than we did against Dillon.

Dillon averaged 85.7 points a game in the playoffs until it ran into Bishop England’s buzzsaw and stifling defense. The Bishops held Dillon to 35 percent from the field and only 21 percent from 3-point land.

“When we were on defense, we weren’t going to let them run and gun,” Runey said. “We knew we had to stop them from going coast to coast. We had to stop them from getting into the paint, driving to the basket.”

Mission accomplished.

Bishop England had nine players enter the scoring column. Caroline McQueeney collected 13 points with nine rebounds. Erin Rose added 13 points, scoring seven in the second quarter. The Bishops had depth with their bench chipping in with 26 points.

Runey said three of his players off the bench – Rose, Christine Egede and Allie Tucker – could start on most teams the Bishops faced this season.

The Bishops are seeking their fourth state championship in five years when they tangle with Keenan. The Bishops are seeking to become only the third Class AA team in nearly 60 years to win three consecutive state titles.

Runey pointed out that Keenan was the team to beat BE in the state title game back in 2013. But he is confident about this year’s team and its mission.

“I’m going to tell the girls to go out and play their game,” Runey said. “Just take care of business. If we did what we did against Dillon, I am confident we can win the game.”

Daniel Island Publishing

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