Girls' team of year: RV

Posted: March 15, 2012

It says something about the talent of a team when, after it accomplishes so much, the most pressing question is "Do you think the season was a disappointment?"

Well, was it?

"Of course it wasn't," senior Natalya Lee said, speaking for her Rancocas Valley team, this year's Inquirer team of the year in South Jersey girls' basketball.

The list of achievements goes on and on. RV hasn't lost to a South Jersey opponent in almost two full seasons. It won its second straight South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament title, and was No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings from start to finish.

All of that despite having a bull's-eye placed on its back by South Jersey's best teams. In fact, to keep its area unbeaten streak alive, the Red Devils had to beat No. 2-ranked Delran three times and No. 3 Willingboro twice.

RV, the 2010-11 state Group 4 champion, held a lead as large as 16 in this year's Central Group 4 final against Jackson Memorial. A scorching hot streak from outside sparked a comeback by Jackson, leading to a 57-56 overtime loss for the Red Devils.

Heartbreaking? Yes.

But does it wreck a season in which RV went 23-5 while playing the area's toughest schedule?

"I just think this was a great season to end my high school career with," Lee said. "I accomplished a lot this year, and as a team, we accomplished even more.

"The loss at the end of the year was a learning experience for everyone. But we had fun this year and we played well."

Lee, a guard bound for Division II Kutztown, embodied her team's style of play.

She is a scrappy defender and hard-nosed scorer who avoids the spotlight.

Lee was one of the area's elite players - something you can say about RV's other four starters, and maybe even a couple of its bench players.

But the team stood out for its unselfishness, something that Lee helped cultivate in her teammates.

"I don't say much," said Lee, a 1,000-point scorer who averaged 11.4 points this season. "But I tried to set the tone for the younger players. We all play hard. We all play team ball."

That consistent attitude is one of the things that stood out most to coach Anthony Corrado this season.

"There was pressure on these girls every game, all season," Corrado said. "And I really admire them for the way they handled that pressure. Other than the outcome of that final game, I wouldn't change anything that happened this season."

The Red Devils will return a ton of experience next season, and in 6-footers Kristen Smith and Lauren Moses, RV will feature one of the top frontcourts in the state.

One of the team's achievements this season was the great strides made by players such as Smith, a freshman forward; Moses, a sophomore center; and junior point guard Brianna Logan.

"This year was a great experience for the younger kids," Corrado said. "They got a taste of what it feels like to be in the spotlight. Hopefully, this just makes them hungrier for next year."

More than all the talent and experience, RV will return a group of selfless workers - an extension of the culture and closeness honed by the team's seniors these last two seasons. Graduated players regularly attended games this season, and Lee said that trend will continue.

"When they get to the state championship next year," she said, "I'll be right there cheering them on."


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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