Daevon Robinson powers Shawnee past Eastern

Daevon Robinson of Shawnee is guarded by Ryan Ems of Eastern during the first quarter.

When fall changes to winter, Daevon Robinson does more than switch Shawnee sports uniforms.

He also assumes a new role for his team.

Robinson is a star in football, a sleek and speedy touchdown-maker. He’s a Rutgers recruit.

Robinson is a complementary player in basketball, a top defender and rebounder. He specializes in the details that often make the difference between winning and losing.

Take Shawnee’s 59-54 victory over visiting Eastern in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals on Saturday.

The top-seeded Renegades got 21 points from senior forward Dylan Deveney and 13 points from senior guard Dean Noll, who scored nine in the fourth quarter while making five of six free throws in the final 1 minute, 18 seconds.

But one of the keys to Shawnee’s success was Robinson’s work at the defensive end and on the glass. He grabbed a team-high 10 boards while also scoring 14 points.

“I don’t care about scoring,” Robinson said. “We all have our role on this team. We all know our role. The only thing that matters to me is if we win.”

The victory advanced Shawnee (25-4), the defending champion, to Monday night’s South Jersey final. The Renegades will host the Atlantic City-Toms River North winner in the first sectional championship in their gym since 1995.

“There’s so much history in this gym,” Deveney said. “It’s special to be playing the championship game here.”

Senior guard Matt Cotton scored 24 points for fourth-seeded Eastern (20-9), which rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to close within 52-49 with a minute to play.

The Vikings had a chance to tie it, but Cotton’s clean look at a three-pointer from the right corner with 0:32 on the clock caromed off the back rim. Shawnee grabbed the rebound and sealed the deal from the foul line.

“We gave them everything we had,” Eastern coach Kevin Crawford said. “Matt had a good look — in-and-out. We had a special group of seniors. I’m proud of how they represented the school.”

Shawnee seniors Deveney and Noll will play their last home game in the sectional final.

It’s the same thing for Robinson, with an added element. As a college football recruit, he’s down the final days of his basketball career. “It’s kind of surreal,” Robinson said. “I can’t even put it into words.”

The 6-foot-4 Robinson has been an integral part of Shawnee’s superb three-year run, serving as an athletic and versatile player for a team that has been led by Deveney and Noll.

He’s too smooth to be regarded as a blue-collor grinder. But he does a lot of dirty work.

“Playing defense, boxing out, grabbing rebounds — that’s my role,” Robinson said.

Shawnee coach Joe Kessler raves about Robinson’s contributions to the cause.

“He’s such an athletic kid and he’s so strong,” Kessler said. “He does so much for this team. I love what he does for us.”

Robinson focused much of his attention Saturday on trying to slow down Cotton, a Yale basketball recruit who made four three-pointers in the first quarter.

Robinson still found time to make a pair of three-pointers and to throw down a slam off a feed from Noll that brought Shawnee’s boisterous student section to its feet in the third quarter.

But his best work was on the boards, as always. Robinson teamed with Deveney to keep Eastern, which had dominated the paint in a quarterfinal win over Rancocas Valley, from many second-chance opportunities.

“I thought that was big,” Kessler said. “Eastern is bigger than us, and Daevon and Dylan kept them off the boards.”

That’s been Robinson’s main role in the course of his career. He’s the program’s all-time leading rebounder, with 301 and counting.

The old mark was held by Kirk Luchman, a Florida State recruit who teamed with Dan Earl to lead Shawnee to the Tournament of Champions title in 1992.

“I told Coach day one I was going to break the record,” Robinson said. “From the first day of tryouts, that’s what I told him I was going to do.

“I love rebounding. I relate it to football. I’m a receiver, and I just imagine I’m going up for a jump ball and grab it.”

Eastern 18 4 7 25 – 54

Shawnee 12 13 13 21 – 59

E: Jesse Barbera 7, Matt Cotton 24, Troy Edwards 9, Ryan Ems 8, Andrew Heck 2, Onye Okoro 4.

S: Dean Noll 13, Dylan Deveney 21, Daevon Robinson 14, Connor Deveney 7, Kane Feudtner 4.