Adam Perry is like every other senior in the state basketball tournament: He has reached the point of no return in his career.
"I know every game from now on can be my last," said Perry, Rancocas Valley's crafty point guard. "I know I've got to leave it all out on the court."
Perry scored 21 points and played a strong floor game Tuesday night to lead Rancocas Valley to a 59-55 victory over Shawnee in a clash of power programs in the first round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
Lakier Brown added 10 points and four other players scored between six and nine for ninth-seeded Rancocas Valley (16-11), which advanced to face top-seeded Washington Township in the sectional quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Sophomore Dean Noll scored 13 points and freshman Pat Kernan added 10 for eighth-seeded Shawnee (16-11).
"We didn't quit," Shawnee coach Joe Kessler said. "We played hard, we played right to the end."
Kessler said that with three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup, Shawnee set the stage for a bright future in the course of a largely successful season.
"The young kids were fantastic," Kessler said. "They see what it takes. They understand the grind. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we have something to build on."
The game was a rematch of a taut clash at the Tri-State Showcase at Bishop Eustace on Feb. 6, won by Rancocas Valley by 55-54 on Perry's late free throws.
"We knew they were a tough team and we knew we had to come in here and it was going to be another close game," Perry said.
Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan thought his team's three-quarter-court pressure defense was a decisive factor, as the Red Devils created several turnovers and at times forced the Renegades out of their comfort zone at the offensive end.
Rancocas Valley's edge in experience also seemed to be significant, as Perry and senior guard Brenden Ruby guided the visitors down the stretch.
Ruby was 3 for 4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and also drove the lane and delivered a perfect bounce pass to Aaron Tonic for a layup and a 55-51 lead with 1 minute, 1 second to play.
Perry scored five consecutive points to give Rancocas Valley a 51-44 lead with about four minutes to play.
First, the lefthander hit a pull-up jumper for a 48-44 lead. Then Perry worked into the lane, drew contact, made the layup, and added the free throw.
He let out a yell of excitement after making the bucket, drawing players on the Rancocas Valley bench and Red Devils fans out of their seats.
"That was a pretty tough shot," Perry said. "I felt it. I felt at that point that we had a little breathing room and we were going to be OK."
Perry is a three-year starter with plenty of playoff experience. He also is a senior looking at the final days of his career.
"This is nothing new to me," Perry said. "We made a pretty good run last year and when I was a sophomore, too.
"But when you're a senior, you know you have to lead your team. I don't want my career to be over and be saying, 'Well, I could have done this or I could have done that.' "
Rancocas Valley 19 14 11 15 - 59
Shawnee 14 13 15 13 - 55
RV: Adam Perry 21, Brenden Ruby 7, Lakier Brown 10, Aaron Tonic 6, Kadian Dawkins 7, Brandon Boggs 8.
S: Dean Austin 8, Pat Kernan 10, Dylan Deveney 9, Dean Noll 13, Anthony Mague 9, Daevon Robinson 6.