Shawnee was sensational in the middle of the Eagles' excellence, turning a 20-point deficit into a two-point lead with a 23-1 run.
"That's a great team, a great program," Devlin said of Shawnee.
The great thing about this game was that both teams should benefit in the long run. Both should gain something that will pay off in the drive for division titles, and in the state tournament.
Both teams showed some serious strength.
Both showed some weakness, as well.
That's a good thing. It's a rare game when both teams, and both coaches, can feel both proud and perturbed.
"The big thing for us was that we were able to pull away," Devlin said after his third-ranked team improved to 7-0. "We didn't fold. We hung in there."
Actually, that was the best thing about this game, the way both teams dealt with adversity. That was the most encouraging thing for both teams.
Second-ranked Shawnee (8-2) was in deep trouble in the second and third quarter. Paul VI made hay with its half-court trap, as junior guards Ron Curry and Kris O'Connor and senior guard Khaaliq Burroughs created all kinds of problems for the Renegades.
"Our guards are young," Kessler said. "We made some mistakes and struggled with their pressure."
But the Renegades showed some moxie in battling back. They worked the ball inside to senior forward Matt Chiusano, who led all players with 23 points, and worked their way back into the game.
It was really remarkable, a 19-0 run that featured three-pointers from Josh Borrelli and Joe Bodnar and big play after big play by Chiusano, a crafty, 6-foot-6 lefthander.
"That's what we should have shown in the first half," Kessler said.
Paul VI saw a 41-21 lead turn into a 44-42 deficit.
On Shawnee's home floor.
With the Renegades' home crowd in full roar.
But the Eagles showed something, too. They regained command behind junior guard Ron Curry and junior forward Roosevelt Cubbage. They scored the game's final 12 points.
They got steals and exclamation-point dunks in that late surge from Curry and senior swingman Rob Poole.
"We let down a little bit, but then we picked it back up," Curry said.
That surge to a 20-point lead, and that finishing kick, that's the way Paul VI can play.
That 23-1 run, that's the way Shawnee can play.
"They're a very good team. We're a very good team," Kessler said.
Both were better than good at times Tuesday.
Both just need to stretch out those sensational segments.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or email@example.com.