Paul Runey, if he’s being honest, isn’t terribly concerned about the score.
The outcome of these early postseason rounds have lately felt inevitable for a Bishop England program that’s collected six state championships in the past eight years. Tuesday’s playoff opener against a four-win Lake City team seemed to be little more than a formality.
Not to Runey, though, who measures his team by a different standard at this point of the season. The lopsided scores are nice, sure, but how many times did his defense surrender that lane down the middle of the floor? How well were they running that side out-of-bounds play?
“That’s the kind of stuff that I’m watching,” the Bishops’ Hall of Fame coach said. “It isn’t so much the scoreboard but how we handled the things we wanted to do.”
Bishop England ran away with a 78-13 win over Lake City in the opening round of the AAA girls state playoffs Monday on Daniel Island.
The game was never in doubt. Bishop England jumped ahead 15-4 through the first four minutes, 26-4 by the end of the first quarter and 45-9 by halftime.
Runey and his staff used the opportunity to sharpen their defense. The Bishops cycled through different alignments of full-court pressure — 1-3-1 trap, 2-2-1 zone and so on. Lake City often struggled just to cross half court. Bishop England forced 26 steals and gathered the majority of its offense in transition.
The Bishops surrendered only five field goals all game, holding the Panthers to 14% shooting. Bishop England shot 50%, pouring in nearly as many made baskets (35) as Lake City attempted (36).
Bishops junior guard Jaiha Williams led all scorers with 17 points — scoring eight in about four minutes in the first quarter — to go with seven assists and five steals. Sophomore center Princess Scott added 13 points and eight rebounds. Senior guard Lily Wood scored 12 with four steals. Bishop England’s starters played less than two quarters total.
“Our defense put us in control,” Runey said. “Once we got ahead, that doubt gets in people’s minds and I think that just kind of snowballed for (Lake City) tonight.”
Bishop England, for the 14th consecutive season, advances to the second round of the playoffs, where they’ll face Lake Marion on Thursday. Lake Marion, a three seed, snuck past second-seeded Gilbert, 53-50, on Tuesday with a last-second three-pointer.
Runey admitted as he exited the floor on Tuesday that his team was probably better prepared to face Gilbert on Thursday than it was Lake Marion. He seemed content though as he strolled to the locker room to meet his team. Does that mean that the veteran coach saw enough within the Bishops’ 65-point win to be satisfied?
“Well,” he began with a smile. “I wouldn’t be a good coach if I didn’t think we had some things to correct before Thursday.”