FLORENCE — There was a calm confidence in Bishop England’s pregame shootaround Saturday morning as the team prepared for the Class AA girls Lower State championship game.
Bishops head coach moved Paul Runey moved restlessly through the court thinking through any last-minute adjustments until his seniors interjected.
“Coach, we got this,” Runey’s upperclassmen promised. “We got it. We’re ready to do it.”
Two-time defending state champion Bishop England plowed through No. 2 Mullins, 62-47, Saturday to earn its fifth consecutive trip to the state title game.
The Bishops will meet No. 6 Keenan in Columbia next Saturday for a chance to win their fourth state championship in the past five years. Just two schools in 57 years of AA girls basketball have ever won three consecutive state titles, just one has won four in five years.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Runey said. “I thought this was probably the most complete game we’ve played against a quality team this season. The key is we’re finishing. Now there’s one game left and these girls want to finish this thing.”
Bishop England (25-2) led by six points at halftime but opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run that lasted more than four minutes and broke open a 17-point Bishops lead. Mullins never came closer than 15 the rest of the night.
Mullins (17-5) entered the game averaging 85.7 points per game this postseason but was limited to 35 percent shooting from the field and just 21 percent from 3 as it struggled to solve the Bishops’ 2-2-1 zone pressure. All-State junior Brittani McDonald scored 17 points but had just two field goals in the second half while Mullins’ usually potent transition offense sputtered.
“We had some lapses without the continuity we usually have,” Mullins head coach Myron Gerald said. “We had some problems figuring out their little zone trap.
“Those girls are strong. They have basketball hands. They work really well together and they can score points in bundles.”
Bishop England had nine players score at least two points. Caroline McQueeney scored 13 points with nine rebounds. Erin Rose added 13 points, scoring seven in the second quarter.
Rose has become a dangerous weapon off the bench this postseason, averaging 14 points on 60 percent shooting and grabbing eight rebounds over the past three games. The Bishops received 26 points from their bench Saturday.
“Erin has been a huge factor. As far as I’m concerned, she’s our sixth starter,” Runey said. “We probably have three off the bench who could start and that’s really helped us in the playoffs.
“Everyone on our team was confident we could outrun them tonight. I thought we got what we wanted. When the girls are playing like, that’s just a really solid team.”