By Phil Anastasia
This time, Camden Catholic made its most dramatic statement after the pre-game introductions.
Whatever the reason for the Irish's freeze-out of Paul VI coach Tony Devlin back on Dec. 22, they sent a more emphatic message in a more traditional way in the rematch on Saturday night.
They controlled the basketball game.
They played sturdy defense, rebounded in traffic and executed on offense with clinical precision.
"We just focused on the basketball part of it," Camden Catholic senior guard Brian Matera said after his team's 50-42 victory over Paul VI before a capacity crowd in the Irish's gymnasium. "We didn't even worry about the other stuff."
The "other stuff" was the fall-out from that scene before the first game between these old rivals, when Camden Catholic's players declined to shake Devlin's hands while he waited at halfcourt.
This time, the Irish shook hands -- then took command of the game from the opening tip.
"We just put it (the last game) behind us," said Camden Catholic sophomore center Brendan Crawford, who led all scorers with 19 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds. "We had a lot of momentum coming in and we just carried it through the game."
Junior guards Rob Brosh and Tom Organ controlled the tempo, repeating beating defenders off the dribble to get in the lane and dish to a wide-open Crawford.
Brosh collected six points and six assists. Organ generated five points, five rebounds and three assists. Matera scored all 12 of his points on four three-pointers and senior swingman Kyle Green, a Temple recruit, added eight points and nine rebounds.
"We just stepped up and played much better (than the last game between the teams)," Brosh said.
The incident before the Dec. 22 game apparently was the result of bad feelings over the circumstances of junior guard Ivan Robinson's decision to transfer to Paul VI last summer after spending his first two years at Camden Catholic.
But the pre-game scene seemed to motivate the Eagles that night, as they cruised to 67-44 victory.
This time, Camden Catholic players shook hands with Devlin, and Paul VI players shook hands with Camden Catholic coach Jim Crawford. The coaches shook hands before tipoff as well.
All that was left was a basketball game, and that's the way the Irish wanted it.
The teams could meet again in the South A tournament as Paul VI unofficially projects as the No. 4 seed and Camden Catholic as the No. 5 seed.
"They played very hard," Devlin said of Camden Catholic. "Our kids never gave up, but we couldn't out-pace their energy."
Playing in front of a packed house that featured two chanting student sections on a cold night in February, the Irish seized command of the game with a 13-5 edge in the first quarter and never relinquished control.
It was a statement game, louder and clearer than any pre-game scene.
Paul VI 5 10 11 16 -- 42
Camden Catholic 13 11 14 12
PVI: Jay Howard 14, Matt Risse 15, Ivan Robinson 6, Matt O'Keefe 3, DeVahnte Mosley 4.
CC: Kyle Green 8, Rob Brosh 6, Tom Organ 5, Brendan Crawford 19, Brian Matera 12.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.