Senior forward Lauren Daugherty scored the winning basket with 11.4 seconds left to lead the No. 4 Hanover Park girls basketball team over top-seeded West Morris in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament on Friday night at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“It feels awesome. It’s kind of a blur to me right now, I just remember getting it and trying, I was just bulldozing my way through and trying to get it in that hoop and it went in,” Daugherty said. “Those are the moments you want to play for.”
The Hornets (18-3) will face No. 3 Morris Catholic in the MCT final next Friday at 7 p.m. at Fairleigh Dickinson. The Crusaders upset No. 2 Randolph in the other semifinal, 59-34. Hanover Park’s last appearance in the MCT was three years ago when they lost to Chatham in the semifinals.
“Incredible, absolutely incredible,” senior guard Lianna Ilutzi said. “This is the first time any of the girls on our team have been here right now and it’s such a good win, coming back and we had a 30-second span where we went down eight, we came back and just stuck together as a team and that’s really what we needed, to persevere.”
With 5 minutes 39 seconds left in the game, West Morris (17-5) went on a 7-0 run to take a 43-35 lead. Hanover Park then went on a 7-0 run of their own, with four points from Daugherty and a 3-pointer from Ilutzi to cut the lead to 43-42 with 3:23 left.
Junior forward Brielle Kelly went to the line and sank one-of-two to put the Wolfpack up 44-42, but Daugherty sank two free throws 30 seconds later to tie the game 44-44 with 2:46 to go. The two teams changed leads a few times before the Hornets took a 48-47 lead with 39.3 seconds left on two free throws by junior forward Meghan Maguire. Junior guard Sydney Sapir then sank a pair of free throws with 24.6 seconds left, setting the stage for Daugherty’s heroics and the upset.
“We just knew we had to keep our head straight, we knew that we could stay in the game with them and we knew that we could beat them so we just needed to keep our emotions intact and keep our heads in the game,” Daugherty said. “I think we came out with a lot of energy which is really good for us because sometimes our bench is just flat, we come out flat so tonight we came out with a lot of energy and we were getting stops on defense, we were getting them in foul trouble, it was all going right for us.”
West Morris took a 15-13 lead after the first quarter and the two teams were tied 24-24 at the half. The lead changed three times in the third before the Wolfpack went on a 6-0 run to take a 36-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Kelly scored a game-high 20 points for West Morris. For the Hornets, Daugherty had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard Maria Santora chipped in with 12 points and Ilutzi scored nine points, all on 3s.