The Morris Catholic girls basketball team ran into trouble on Saturday in the form of St. Rose in the Non-Public B state final.
The Crusaders, who had advanced to the state final for the third straight year and were playing for their first championship since 2006, again went home empty-handed thanks to a 64-49 loss to the Purple Roses at Pine Belt Arena.
“It’s the third year making it here in a row so we were really hoping that this would be our year,” Morris Catholic sophomore guard Rachel Mills said. “Unfortunately it wasn’t but it just proves we deserve to be here.”
Morris Catholic (25-2) led 15-12 after the first quarter thanks to seven points from sophomore forward Stella Johnson. St. Rose (28-3) took the lead 17-16 on a 3-pointer from Jess Louro with 6 minutes, 58 seconds left in the half and a free throw from senior guard Charlotte Schum tied it up 17-17.
The Purple Roses retook the lead on a free throw from Louro but a basket by senior guard Alexa Giuliano gave Morris Catholic back the lead, 19-18, with 5:46 left. From there, the Purple Roses went on a 9-0 run to take a 27-19 lead with 3:53 left. Both teams scored six points to close out the first half and St. Rose led 33-25 at halftime.
“They affected us defensively, I didn’t think they would,” Morris Catholic coach Rich Fachet said. “They turned us over seven times in the first half and that’s 14 possible points, so if we get six of those we’d be winning at the half because you have to get shots on possessions.”
St. Rose kept up its offense in the second half, outscoring the Crusaders 18-12 in the third quarter to take a 51-37 lead. Morris Catholic didn’t score in the final 3:03 and Giuliano picked up her fourth foul with 1:51 left in the third and went to the bench.
Morris Catholic opened the fourth on a 6-2 run, with Giuliano back in the game, to get to within 53-43 with 4:16 left to play, but six-straight points from the Purple Roses but the game out of reach 59-43 with 3:11 to go.
The Crusaders outscored the Purple Roses 6-5 in the final 1:40 for the 64-49 final.
“I just think that we didn’t play as well as our girls are able to play and we just didn’t bring the game that we’ve been playing all season down here today,” Fachet said. “You don’t win when you get to this game if you don’t execute on offense and don’t guard well on defense and today we didn’t do either.”
St. Rose hit nine 3-pointers which resulted in 27 points while the Crusaders didn’t make any. Turnovers were also a big problem for Morris Catholic.
“We knew they were a great outside shooting team, which they just proved, so we knew we had to defend the outside shot, but they still did really well,” Mills said. “There were a lot of turnovers and I think that was one of our major problems that led them to get a lot of baskets.”
Giuliano led the Crusaders with 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Junior forward Kate Feeney had 10 points before fouling out with 1:23 left in the fourth. Johnson finished with nine points and five rebounds while Mills chipped in eight rebounds.
The Crusaders finish their season as Morris County Tournament champions and Non-Public North B sectional champs.
“I’m so proud of my team, towards the end of the season we really worked together as a team, that’s why we made it this far,” Mills said. “They’re all great players, during practice they all hustle, they all give 100 percent, we work hard all the time so there’s nothing really bad to say about our team, they did what they needed to do.”
Morris Catholic (49): S. Johnson 4 1-1 9, Mills 2 2-2 6, Schum 1 1-2 3, Giuliano 2 8-8 12, Feeney 2 6-10 10, Andolino 0 0-0 0, Rossetto 1 0-0 2, C. Johnson 2 1-2 5, Arico 0 0-0 0, Garzon 1 0-0 2, Bliss 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 19-25 49
St. Rose (64): Louro 6 5-6 18, Smith 3 3-4 10, Napolitano 1 0-0 3, Phipps 6 1-1 17, Kurtz 5 4-4 16, A. White 0 0-0 0, R. White 0 0-0 0, Stoll 0 0-0 0, Hall 0 0-0 0, Cretella 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 13-18 64
3-point goals: (S) Louro, Smith, Napolitano, Phipps 4, Kurtz 2