This outcome would have been surprising under any circumstances. These teams had met three times in the previous 13 months, and all three games were decided by two points.
"I expected another two-point game," Devlin said.
Actually, Devlin was hoping for another two-point game. Because the way his team has been playing over the last week, and the way the Eagles moped through practice Wednesday, he wasn't sure they could keep pace with the red-hot Crusaders.
"Coach ripped us last night," Paul VI senior guard Ron Curry said. "He stopped practice and just started yelling for five minutes."
Devlin isn't a yeller. But his team needed something, since the Eagles were in real danger of letting a potentially special season slip away.
Paul VI played without its usual fire in a 69-59 loss to Paulsboro on Saturday, although the Red Raiders deserve credit for seizing the initiative in the game. Then came a sluggish performance Monday in a win over Woodrow Wilson, and a ragged practice Wednesday.
"In a fog," Devlin said of his team.
Meanwhile, Bishop Eustace was riding high after an impressive showing just last Thursday against national power St. Anthony as well as comfortable victories over Eastern and Camden. The Crusaders had won eight of nine.
If there was smart money bet before this game, it probably was on the home team.
"Defensively, we didn't play with our normal intensity," said Bishop Eustace coach Bob Falconiero, who was as surprised as his counterpart, just not as pleasantly. "Offensively, they were doing what they wanted and we didn't do anything to stop them."
So both coaches were baffled, which put them in the same company as most of the 1,400-plus spectators that filled Bishop Eustace's field house.
These were top teams, with Bishop Eustace at No. 2 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings and Paul VI at No. 4. Bishop Eustace entered play with a 21-4 overall record and a 8-1 mark in the Olympic National, while Paul VI was 21-3 and 9-0.
Everybody expected another taut battle that turned on a play in the final minute, like Curry's game-winning jumper in a 62-60 victory over Bishop Eustace on Jan. 17.
Instead, Paul VI played a nearly perfect game to seize the division title. The Eagles were so balanced that they had six players score between nine and 13 points.
Curry led the way with a stacked stat line that included 11 points, six assists, four steals, and two blocks, despite battling cramps in his legs for much of the second half.
"We came out with a lot of passion," Curry said. "We hadn't done that in some of our other big games."
Devlin threw up his hands during practice Wednesday. He said he has never given this team a harder time.
But there was a message in his madness.
"I told them, 'I can't figure it out. You can't figure it out,' " Devlin said. "But I told them that I know we're still a good team. I know we're still one of the best teams in South Jersey."
Paul VI 17 19 12 14 – 62
Bishop Eustace 6 4 17 16 – 43
PV: Ron Curry 11, Kris O'Connor 9, Roosevelt Cubbage 11, Matt Risse 13, Jay Howard 9, Sameen Swint 9.
BE: Carson Puriefoy 16, Sho DaSilva 17, Ry'n Bland 2, Dexter Harris 3, Scott Hyland 2, Nick Hauscin 3.
Phil Anastasia: ONLINE EXTRA
Paul VI point guard Ron Curry talks about the victory over Bishop Eustace. www.philly.com/rallyvideos
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia
at 856-779-3223, email@example.com,
or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.