VIDEO: Morris Catholic girls basketball wins Morris County Tournament

VIDEO: Morris Catholic girls basketball wins Morris County Tournament

Video

VIDEO: Morris Catholic girls basketball wins Morris County Tournament

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MADISON

The No. 3 Morris Catholic girls basketball team was crowned Morris County Tournament champion on Friday after battling No. 4 Hanover Park to a 41-35 victory at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The Crusaders (23-1) won their first title since 2011 and their ninth overall. The Hornets (20-4) played in their first final since 2009 and were aiming to win their first championship since 1988.

“Honestly it’s all a blur, I’m just so happy and proud of my team, I can’t even describe it in words,” Morris Catholic junior guard Alexa Giuliano said.

With the score tied at 26 to start the fourth quarter, Hanover Park took a 30-26 lead on baskets by senior forward Lauren Daugherty and senior guard Maria Santora. Senior forward and tournament MVP Sade Idera cut the lead to 30-28 on a rebound and a layup with 4:30 left, but a 3-pointer from Hornets senior guard Liana Ilutzi pushed Hanover Park’s lead to 33-28 with 4:03 left.

“I thought that we played pretty well on defense, we just needed to adjust our offense because we were rushing stuff and we just had to calm down a little bit,” Idera said. “We tried to look for the open places in their defense, tried to work around it and that’s how I got the pass to Anna (Toke) a lot because she knew how to get open in that defense.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Giuliano and Idera gave Morris Catholic a 34-33 lead with 2:45 left. A basket by Daugherty briefly gave Hanover Park back the lead, 35-34, but a three-point play from freshman guard Rachel Mills gave the Crusaders back the lead for good, 37-35 with 1:01 left in the game.

“She’s a great player,” Giuliano said of Mills, who had six points. “She came in and did what she had to do, coming off the bench she’s just amazing. I’m so proud of her, she’s a great player.”

Idera and junior center Toke went to the line in the final 25 seconds and each sank both free throws for the 41-35 final.

Hanover Park had a 14-10 lead after the first quarter, but Morris Catholic outscored the Hornets 7-2 in the second quarter and took its first lead of the game, 17-16, at the half.

“We really just wanted to play as a team because that’s our No. 1 thing,” Idera said. “We started off a little slow but we made sure we got it together by the second half.”

The Hornets woke up in the third quarter and climbed their way back into the game. Down 26-22 with 2:53 left, Hanover Park finished the quarter with four straight points to tie the game.

“We didn’t think about it, we just said play our game, keep calm and keep running until we get good shots,” Giuliano said of the Crusaders coming back in the fourth quarter. “I think our motivation, we wanted it so bad. We took good shots and ran our offense and that’s how we got it.”

Idera scored a game-high 15 points for the Crusaders, while Giuliano chipped in with 10 and Toke scored eight. Daugherty led the Hornets with 12 points and Ilutzi contributed 10 points.

Daugherty, Ilutzi, Idera and Giuliano were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Randolph junior guard Aliyah Huland El and West Morris junior forward Brielle Kelly.

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