Crusaders cruise on way to MCT repeat

Crusaders cruise on way to MCT repeat

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Crusaders cruise on way to MCT repeat

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MADISON

The top-seeded Morris Catholic girls basketball team won its second straight Morris County Tournament title on Friday night with a 62-47 defeat of No. 2 West Morris at FDU-Florham.

The Crusaders (22-1) capped a tremendous regular season in which they didn’t lose to a Morris County team. With the victory, Morris Catholic earned its county-leading 10th overall title and third in four years.

“It’s incredible,” Morris Catholic senior guard Alexa Giuliano said. “In my four years here I have three Morris County championships under my belt, not a lot of girls get this opportunity and it’s just amazing, I’m so proud of my team.”

West Morris (21-2) was making its first appearance in a final since last winning the MCT crown in 2010.

The Wolfpack opened the game with six straight points for a 6-0 lead with 4:59 remaining. From there, Morris Catholic shook off its nerves and closed out the first quarter on a 16-0 run to lead 16-6, and West Morris was never able to recover.

The Crusaders led 20-8 with 3:52 left in the half but West Morris went on a 10-4 run at the end of the second quarter to get within 26-18.

“We knew that we had to rebound,” Morris Catholic junior Kate Feeney said. “We had to rebound so much because we knew that (Brielle Kelly) is so much bigger than us, and then when we went into our trapping defense they just couldn’t handle us, and we just made sure we jumped the ball and got rebounds as quickly as we could.”

At the start of the third quarter, Morris Catholic pulled away again on a 6-0 run to lead 32-18 with 5:30 left. A free throw from West Morris senior Kendall Ballotti and a basket by junior Madison Williams pulled the Wolfpack back within 11 with 4:44 to go, but a bucket by junior Claire Johnson and three straight 3-pointers from Giuliano gave Morris Catholic a commanding 43-25 lead after three quarters.

“Lately our offense has been slowing down,” Feeney said. “Against Chatham (in the semifinals) we only scored 33 points and (West Morris) scored so much more that same night so we knew we had to play better offense because they were going to score and we needed to score as well. We tried our best to look for the open player and whoever it was, got the ball.”

The Wolfpack scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, led by Kelly’s eight points, but the Crusaders went 15-for-19 from the line down the stretch to stay ahead for the 62-47 final.

“In practice we definitely worked on boxing out a lot,” Giuliano said. ” We knew they were taller than us and we knew we had to box out. They’re very big so I think ball movement got us the backdoor cuts and that was very important, it’s where we got most of our points so it was excellent.”

Feeney led the Crusaders with 19 points, while Giuliano scored 16, including four 3-pointers. Johnson and senior Charlotte Schum each scored eight points.

For West Morris, Kelly scored 16 points and Williams finished with 11 points.

Giuliano was named to the All-Tournament Team and earned MVP. Feeney was also named to the team along with West Morris’ Kelly and senior Sydney Sapir. Chatham’s Cassandra Falone and Randolph’s Aliyah Huland El were also honored.

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