When Bella Runyan stepped on the basketball court for her first practice with Moorestown Friends’ high school team, she never thought she would become one of the greatest players in school history.
“I didn’t see myself being this huge standout player,” Runyan said. “Once I had people telling me, ‘You can be a great player, you can be a Division 1 player,’ I didn’t really believe it until I started doing it.”
Runyan didn’t just become an elite player, she transformed into one of the best all-around players in the entire state. In 2019-2020, Runyan led Moorestown Friends in nearly every major statistical category, including rebounds (219), steals (152), assists (123) and blocks (35). Runyan also scored 444 points, second most on the team, to boost her career total to 1,741, the second-most in school history. She leaves the program as the all-time leader in assists with 410 and steals with 524. Runyan’s outstanding career and 2019-2020 season earns her South Jersey Sports Weekly Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors.
“When I was a 14-year-old, I didn’t think I’d be where I am now, obviously winning player of the year,” Runyan said. “It would have been a crazy dream of mine.”
For head coach Mike Brunswick, there’s no better player to receive the honor than Runyan, whose impact on the program,, he believes, will be felt for years to come.
“The mark that she is leaving is of excellence,” Brunswick said. “She’s basically leading in every major category except for rebounding and scoring, and the scoring is because we don’t run the score up on people.”
Runyan’s 1,741 career points trails only 1995 graduate Jessica MacNeil’s 2,073 for the most in program history. But it wasn’t Runyan’s scoring that impressed Brunswick the most about her game.
“She loves playing defense and stealing the ball and making teams look bad on the defensive end,” he said. “She can just feel the atmosphere and feel the way the ball is going. You don’t come across these types of athletes too often.”
Runyan played basketball with a rabid intensity most opponents couldn’t match. She credits her dad, former NFL offensive lineman Jon Runyan, for instilling intensity into her and her two older siblings, Jon Jr. and Alyssa.
“Whether it’s sports or not, we’re competitive in everything,” Bella said. “When I was little and my brother would beat me one on one, I would start crying. That’s helped me keep that competitiveness. And obviously my dad doing what he did in the NFL, always wanting to pancake that person he was going against. That competitiveness and that aggressiveness comes from how much we want to win.”
Runyan helped the Foxes win a lot of games during her time at the school. This season, Moorestown Friends went 21-6, matching the school’s single-season wins record, set during Runyan’s freshman and junior seasons. The Foxes won 82 games during her four years with the team.
“She took many of the players under her wing,” Brunswick said of Runyan’s leadership.
“She would never really yell at her teammates. She was really really positive.”
Runyan didn’t just make history with her career rankings at Moorestown Friends, she also made history in the South Jersey Interscholastic Basketball Tournament. In Moorestown Friends’ SJIBT semifinal game against Eastern on Feb. 14, Runyan broke the tournament’s all-time scoring record previously held by Gloucester Catholic’s Mary Gedaka. She would finish the tournament with 339 career points and won the MVP Award as the Foxes took down Clearview for their first SJIBT title on Feb. 16.
CONGRATS TO BELLA RUNYAN ON BREAKING THE ALL TIME SJIBT SCORING RECORD FOR HER CAREER. OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENT BELLA. pic.twitter.com/IsRaIWFHdW
— THE SJIBT SCORES (@Thesjibt) February 15, 2020
“(The SJIBT title) was a huge step toward building our program even more,” said Runyan, who also made three SJIBT all-tournament teams in her career and won the SJIBT three-point contest in 2018. “People are going to see that we have a banner in our gym and we’re a legit South Jersey team.”
That banner was hanging behind the scorer’s table when Runyan took the court at her school’s Mel and Diane Baiada Field House for the final time on March 5 in a second-round South Non-Public B playoff matchup with Gloucester Catholic. Runyan put on a dominant performance one last time in front of the home crowd, registering 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and seven steals in a 68-51 Moorestown Friends win.
“I was super focused going into that game, probably the most focused I was going into any game all season, because I knew this could be our last game,” Runyan recalled. “I wanted my last home game to be a win.”
Runyan, who will continue her basketball career at Villanova University next year, got her wish to experience a win in her final home game at Moorestown Friends. She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, having attended the school since she was 3. Runyan believes the education and values she learned at the school made a difference in molding her into the person she is today.
“It set a great example for me as an athlete and a person for me going ahead,” Runyan said about the school. “I know what’s right in sports and in life and it just set a great example for my life.”