Senior trio leads Bishop Eustace girls basketball to best start in years

Kaitlyn Deiter, Madison Grubb and Lauren Punk have played key roles in helping the Crusaders to a 9-2 start, including a victory over previously unbeaten Paul VI on Thursday.

Bishop Eustace’s Madison Grubb closely guards a Lenape player during last Tuesday’s game between the two teams. Grubb is part of a large senior core that has pushed the Crusaders to a fast 9-2 start to the season.

The heart of Bishop Eustace’s 2020 girls basketball team was born during the 2016 preseason.

Kaitlyn Deiter, Madison Grubb and Lauren Punk were among the freshmen trying out for the Crusaders that preseason. All three had the potential to be impact players on the varsity team and all three of them were ready to showcase their abilities.

“We would kill to beat the starters,” Punk said of scrimmaging against the starters during her freshman and sophomore seasons. “All we wanted to do when we scrimmaged them was to beat them.”

“Pushing each other freshman year got us to where we are today,” Grubb added.

Deiter, Grubb and Punk all earned spots on the varsity roster as freshmen. Three years later, the three Crusaders helped lead Eustace to its best start in more than a decade. Bishop Eustace kicked off the season with an eight-game win streak, including a tournament championship at the KSA Girls High School Basketball Tournament in Orlando over the holiday break. After their win streak was snapped with back-to-back losses to Rumson-Fair Haven and Lenape, the Crusaders picked up their biggest win yet last Thursday when they took down previously unbeaten Paul VI, 44-37.

Deiter, Grubb and Punk are just three of eight seniors on Bishop Eustace’s roster this season. With such a large senior class, the Crusaders entered the 2020 season with a sense of urgency and have played with a vengeance early on.

“We knew this year was it and we really had to get it done,” Deiter said. “Every day in practice, we had to work really hard and push each other.”

On the court, Deiter, Grubb and Punk have been Bishop Eustace’s biggest contributors through the team’s first 10 games. With the team’s 2019 leading scorer, junior Katie Kempter, missing the team’s first five games due to mononucleosis, the senior trio was asked to step into bigger roles. They succeeded, leading the Crusaders to wins over Shawnee and Winslow Township before Christmas as well as a perfect 3-0 record in the tournament at Orlando.

In the tournament’s championship game, Bishop Eustace pulled off a huge win over Pisgah High School in Alabama. Pisgah is coming off a state championship in 2019 and had a 23-0 record entering the game with the Crusaders.

 

“We haven’t had a state title in a while,” Grubb said. “Just going into the game knowing we were playing a team that was 23-0 and had a state title under their belt, I think there was more fire under us to want that game even more.”

“The whole tournament was really fun,” Deiter added. “It was nice because we were all there; we were all playing extremely well. The last game we played was really intense, so it was really fun.”

Deiter, the team’s leading scorer in the Pisgah win with 19 points, has emerged as an impact player for the Crusaders. She averaged 10.2 points per game through 10 games and was the team’s leader in rebounds and assists. Head coach John Considine said Deiter is easily the team’s most improved player this year.

“We trust her to bring the ball up,” Considine said. “She’s in the right spot all of the time. She has a high basketball IQ. She knows when to kick it out, knows when to take it. She’s confident that way.”

Punk, a standout softball player who is committed to La Salle University next year, averaged a team-high 14.3 points through the Crusaders’ first 10 games and epitomizes the team’s strong work ethic.

Bishop Eustace’s Lauren Punk drives through the Lenape defense to attempt a layup during last Tuesday’s game between the two teams. Punk has been the Crusaders’ leading scorer this season, averaging more than 14 points per game.

“She busts it in practice,” Considine noted. “She’s committed to softball, but in the summer, she comes to all of the summer things she can come to. She communicates openly. She gets better as the season goes.”

Grubb said she’s improved her confidence in shot selection as well as her defense. Her improvement can be seen in the stats, as she’s averaging a career-best 8.7 points per game and leading the team in steals.

Last Thursday, the Crusaders were able to pick up a marquee win when they knocked off one of two remaining undefeated teams in South Jersey in Paul VI. This Thursday, Bishop Eustace will try to do it again as they host Cherokee, the last unbeaten team in South Jersey and a team ranked in the top-five in New Jersey. For the Crusaders, the game is an opportunity to prove they can compete with the best in the region.

“We’re just trying to put Eustace’s name out there,” Deiter said. “We know every game we just have to make a name for ourselves and play as hard as we can.”