Sacred Heart tops N. Burlco to advance

Posted: March 19, 2003

ELIZABETH, N.J. — It's been a long journey in a short period of time for Sacred Heart's Viktoria Sholokhova.

From Russia to Vineland and now to Elizabeth, where Sholokhova has spent a lot of time lately.

Sholokhova's journey will continue for at least one more game after the third-seeded Sacred Heart girls' basketball team defeated No. 6 Northern Burlington, 54-49, last night in a first-round game in the Tournament of Champions at the Dunn Center.

Ranked No. 2 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, Parochial B state champ Sacred Heart (27-1) will meet Group 4 champion Marlboro at 6 p.m. on Friday in a semifinal game here.

Sholokhova, a 6-foot-4 junior, came off the bench to score 13 points, grab nine rebounds and block four shots. She also altered a number of other shots and was a key inside presence as the Lions won their 23d straight game.

Last night's game was Sholokhova's eighth this season since being ruled eligible after sitting the first 30 days of the regular season due to the NJSIAA transfer rules. She also missed time with an ankle injury.

"I like it here and I am getting more comfortable," said Sholokhova, who averages 8.8 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

Her English is improving daily, and so is her game. Like many European players, Sholokhova isn't a typical back-to-the-basket post player. She likes to roam the perimeter, and last night she hit a key three-point field goal to extend the Lions' lead to 37-28 with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

One thing Sholokhova will work on over the next year is shot selection. In American basketball terminology, Sholokhova has no conscience, meaning she will shoot anytime, anywhere. Last night she shot 3 for 14 from the field, but was a bigger factor on defense.

She entered the game with just five blocks for the season.

"In other games I didn't try to block shots because I was afraid of fouling," she said. "Today I only had one foul and I wasn't afraid."

Group 2 state champion Northern Burlington (23-7) scored the game's first seven points and appeared headed for an upset.

The Greyhounds led, 22-20, at halftime as Sacred Heart got off to another slow start at the Dunn Center. In Saturday's 58-56 Parochial B state title win here over Morris Catholic, Sacred Heart trailed by 11 entering the final period.

Last night, the Lions used a 17-8 third-quarter scoring advantage to take a 37-30 lead heading into the final period.

Ranked No. 7 by The Inquirer, Northern Burlington never got closer than the final five-point margin and needed five points in the final 10 seconds to round out the scoring.

Last night's game marked the final appearance for Northern Burlington's Erica Davis, a brilliant 6-3 senior who is headed to Yale.

Davis had 16 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 30.96 seconds left and her team trailing by nine points.

Despite having played just one year of organized basketball before arriving at Northern Burlco, Davis became one of the top post players in South Jersey.

"Winning the state title and this whole experience still hasn't sunk in," Davis said. "It's tough to think I won't be playing here any more, because I love these girls like sisters."

Adrienne Rochetti (19 points) led Sacred Heart in scoring. Senior Ikea Witt added 10 more. Witt moved into second place on the school's career scoring list with 1,582 points. Rochetti is first with 1,901. For once, the seniors shared the spotlight with somebody else, namely Sholokhova.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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