The loss was just RV's third to a South Jersey opponent since January 2011. The Red Devils, the No. 1 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, had won the Invitational the previous three years.
"Turnovers and foul shots, that's the difference," RV coach Anthony Corrado said. "Our effort was good; it was there, at least in the second half. We had plenty of opportunities, but we weren't smart with the ball."
Camden Catholic will play Gloucester Catholic, a 64-50 winner over Woodrow Wilson in the second semifinal, for the tournament championship at 4:30 Sunday at Eastern. Camden Catholic beat Gloucester Catholic, 48-46, on Jan. 22.
Rancocas Valley was an abysmal 10 for 18 from the foul line in the semifinal opener. Those numbers encapsulate a frustrating and ultimately catastrophic offensive performance.
A furious defensive effort allowed RV (14-4) to erase a double-digit first-half deficit, but facing a strong zone defense by Camden Catholic, the Red Devils were plagued by turnovers, missed foul shots, missed jump shots, and, particularly, missed layups throughout the game.
The Irish, on the other hand, opened the game hot from the floor. Sophomore guard Sierra Taylor scored 12 of her team-leading 13 points in the first half to help Camden Catholic enter halftime with a 12-point lead.
"It just takes focus," Taylor said. "You have to ignore the pressure, ignore the crowd, and just realize what you have to do in the game. Talk to your teammates, stay calm and collected, and communicate well. That's all it takes."
Irish coach Chris Palladino praised her team's chemistry and poise, particularly as RV pounded Camden Catholic defensively in the second half.
Most of the final 16 minutes might not have been pretty for No. 3 Camden Catholic. But the team hung on and proved a point it had been trying to make all season:
"If we all play as a team and play our game, we can do a lot of big things," Taylor said.
Added Palladino: "We hung tough. [RV's] pressure was crazy, but we hung tough.
"This group is special. They feed off each other. They pick each other up. It's chemistry. You can't really teach that, but this team has it."
Camden Catholic 16 20 7 9 – 52
Rancocas Valley 8 16 11 13 – 48
CC: Cara Hardy 6, Cara Racobaldo 2, Olivia Crenny 2, Michelle Obasi 4, Ariel Robinson 3, Sierra Taylor 13, Julia Braungart 10, Taiah Thornton 12.
RV: Deja Brown 6, Kristin Smith 8, Dominique Ward 13, Lauren Moses 14, Sabrina Jackson 7.