"I'm so happy right now, I can't even express it," Bell said. "We've been waiting for this game for months."
Sophomore forward Matt Klinewski scored 14 and senior guard Mike Wilson added 12 as No. 2 Eastern (16-1) dominated the highly anticipated showdown with sturdy defense, balanced offense, and a spring in its step that No. 1 Paul VI couldn't match.
"They out-energized us," Paul VI coach Tony Devlin said. "They got to every loose ball."
The game was played before a huge crowd in Eastern's back gymnasium, with chanting student sections from each school. It also was played on the last day before the cutoff for the seedings for the state tournaments.
Eastern already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament before the game, a fact that coach Joe Murphy used to motivate his team.
"I told our guys, 'Look, we've already got the No. 1 seed, let's go find out the No. 1 team in South Jersey,'" Murphy said. "I told them to take in the crowd, enjoy the moment, and just go out and play basketball."
Senior guard Ron Curry scored 17 and senior center Roosevelt Cubbage added 16 for Paul VI (15-2), which likely will be the No. 2 seed in the Non-Public South A tournament.
"We dug ourselves too big of a hole," Devlin said. "It was a team effort on all points, rebounding, defensive assignments, everything. We just weren't sharp."
Klinewski collected eight rebounds and also was 4 for 4 from the foul line as Eastern held off a Paul VI charge in the fourth quarter.
"For me to experience this as a sophomore, it was amazing," Klinewski said.
Eastern got a big boost from its bench in the second quarter, as senior guard Brett Knoblauch scored six - making a pair of spectacular layups - and senior forward Melvin Ford generated six points, three rebounds, and a steal to send the Vikings into the locker room with a 33-22 lead.
But the home team took its game to another level in the third quarter, as Bell, Klinewski, and Co. brought the Eastern fans to their feet with a 30-point surge that was fueled by sticky man-to-man defense and speedy transition offense.
In addition to his 15 points, Bell collected five rebounds and two assists in the third quarter, once dribbling between his legs to split a double team before firing a perfect pass to Klinewski for a layup.
When the buzzer sounded to end the period, Eastern was in front by 63-40.
"We wanted to show everybody who the real No. 1 team in South Jersey is," Bell said.
Paul VI 12 10 18 34 – 74
Eastern 12 21 30 21 – 84
PVI: Ron Curry 17, Kris O'Connor 15, Roosevelt Cubbage 16, Matt Rise 9, Jay Howard 15, Sameen Swint 2.
E: Mike Wilson 12, Devon Bell 30, Matt Klinewski 14, Avery Walker 8, Melvin Ford 7, Brett Knoblauch 10, Steve Schneider 3.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.
Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports,"