In the 2009-10 season, under coach Joe
G. Murphy, Eastern Regional's girls basketball team won its first
(and still only) South Jersey championship. The Vikings competed in Group 4 and won five playoffs
-- four in the South Jersey sectionals and one in the state tournament. They also won all four games
in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament, which was played late during the regular season, and the
outright Olympic American crown with a 9-1 record.
Joe G. Murphy -- Eastern's boys hoops coach at the time was Joe C. Murphy -- was named
the South Jersey Coach of the Year by the Courier-Post and Philadelphia Inquirer and senior star
Genevieve Okoro was the named the Player of the Year by both newspapers.
The Vikings finished 25-4 and were ranked No. 1 in South Jersey throughout the season.
Below are game-by-game results, individual scoring over the 29 games and a story about the win that
yielded the South Jersey championship.
|Cherry Hill West||W||58||20|
|T-Friends' Central (PA)||L||46||49|
|*Cherry Hill East||W||57||54|
|Archbishop Ryan (PA)||W||45||39|
|*Cherry Hill East||W||75||69|
|St. John Vianney||L||41||52|
|SJ Group 4 Playoffs|
|Cherry Hill East||W||62||35|
|State Group 4 Playoffs|
NLP -- Non-League Points
ONP -- Olympic National Points
OTP -- Overall Total Points
|Olym. Amer & Play.||14-2||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||L||W||W||W||W||W||W||L|
Eastern girls have night worth remembering
By Phil Anastasia
Before and after practice, Nia Blevins would tell her coach about her ability to shoot from long distance. She would
"She's been bugging me all season," Eastern girls' basketball coach Joe Murphy said.
Murphy always shook his head. No. Not in a nonconference game. Not in a conference game. Not in a tournament game.
And certainly not in the first South Jersey final in the history of the program.
Blevins is a sturdy senior forward. She rebounds. She plays defense. She works a nice little high-low game with Vikings
senior star Genevieve Okoro.
She does not shoot three-pointers.
"I've been asking him all year," Blevins said. "He always says no."
The planets were aligned for the Vikings last night.
It was the night when Eastern won its first South Jersey title.
It also was the night Blevins made the first three-pointer of her career.
"We've had so many tough games," Murphy said after top-seeded Eastern's 53-26 victory over visiting Southern Regional.
"In the fourth quarter, I finally saw us in a relaxed atmosphere. "
The Vikings (24-3), The Inquirer's No. 1 team in South Jersey, played a nearly perfect game in capturing their first
Okoro collected 22 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks. She did most of her damage in the middle two periods, when
Eastern outscored Southern by 30-10.
But the best thing wasn't just that all the Vikings got to pose with the trophy and thrust their right index fingers in the air.
The best thing was that the biggest victory of the season was a total team effort.
Kerri Aiken and Darian Graziano each scored nine points. Blevins grabbed 12 rebounds. Marlene Pratt hit a big
three-pointer, and Michelle Dixon, Tori Neill, and Kaitlyn Hertz added energy off the bench.
"I was thinking about that during the game," Graziano said. "There wasn't one person who stepped on the court for us
who didn't play a part in this. "
Eastern has been working toward this moment for two seasons, if not longer. The Vikings have been trying, with varying
degrees of success, to develop a consistent complementary game to Okoro, the 6-foot-1 forward who has been the most
dominant player in South Jersey for two years.
It's been there some nights and missing some nights. In the last home game of these seniors' careers, the Vikings were a
team in full - Okoro playing her usual game, but the rest of the athletes raising their level as well.
"These girls know Gen is the best player in South Jersey," said Murphy, whose team advanced to face Central Jersey
champion Colts Neck in a state semifinal at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Southern Regional.
"They know she's going to be double- and triple-teamed. I said, 'Gen makes you better, and you make Gen better. ' "
Said Okoro: "It takes a team effort to win a championship. Everyone has to contribute. "
Late in the game, Blevins asked Murphy a familiar question. She got an unfamiliar answer.
"She said she could hit it," Murphy said. "I said, 'If you got it, take it. ' "
With 1 minute, 34 seconds on the clock, Blevins took a deep three. It hit nothing but net, a swish that summed up a
special night and a special season.
"I've been practicing them," Blevins said. "I can't believe Coach let me take one. I can't believe I made it. "