The Morristown-Beard girls basketball team made history on Saturday when the sixth-seeded Crimson advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Morris County Tournament for the first time.
Morristown-Beard defeated No. 11 Morris Knolls 41-37 thanks to 15 points from sophomore guard Dani Kabat and 10 points from junior center Morgan Bartner. The Crimson earned a date with No. 3 Randolph at noon on Saturday at Morris Knolls High School.
Last season, the Crimson were the No. 17 seed and lost to No. 16 Pequannock 37-29 in the preliminary round. As of Wednesday, the Crimson were 14-4 having won 12 of their last 13 games and sitting undefeated in conference play atop the Liberty Division standings.
“I think experience, we started two freshman last year and we didn’t have a ton of basketball background but we have very good athletes,” Morristown-Beard coach Mike Sturgeon said. “The schedule we played last year, we played Hanover Park, we played Mt. St. Dominic and Paramus Catholic and we played Morris Catholic twice last year, so last season playing the tough schedule and still winning nine games let us know we can play.”
Bartner is currently leading the team with 13.9 points per game while Kabat is averaging 12.4 points per game. Morristown-Beard is also getting contributions from sophomore guard/forward Meg Damstrom and senior guard Bryair Alston.
“When you get into middle to late February we’re looking forward to the state tournament and now it’s you have a chance to win the conference, you’re still in the the county tournament and you have states coming up, so every game for us in the past week and a half as been a tournament type game,” Sturgeon said. “These kids and myself are excited every time we get to play.”
The Crimson will need an all-around solid effort against the Rams, who are 15-6 and have won 13 of their last 15 games. Randolph is returning to the quarterfinals after beating No. 14 Pequannock 56-39 on Saturday. Last season as the No. 2 seed, Randolph fell in the semifinals to third-seeded and eventual champion Morris Catholic 59-34.
Senior guard/forward and 2,000 point scorer Aliyah Huland El leads the Rams with a double-double of 26.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Kiera Cesareo (6.8 ppg.), junior guard forward Cynthia Meringer (5.7 ppg., 2.9 rpg.), senior forward Sabrina Viscomi and junior guard Kelly McGinniss have all contributed to Randolph’s winning ways of late.
“(We expect) a ridiculously good team, a well seasoned team,” Sturgeon said of Randolph. “I think a lot of the focus goes to their star player but they’re very well rounded. I think if you tell your team to just focus on that one player, the other players are going to burn you. You have to play a well-balanced game, you have to have good offensive possession, they can score in bunches so being smart with the basketball is key and not getting flustered.”
2. West Morris vs. 7. Jefferson
West Morris and Jefferson are meeting in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, when the top-seeded Wolfpack dispatched the No. 8 Falcons 69-54.
The second-seeded Wolfpack are making their return to the MCT quarterfinals with a 50-37 victory over No. 15 Villa Walsh. West Morris (17-1) has been on a tear as of late, having only lost one game this season at the hands of New Providence back on Dec. 27. Since then the Wolfpack have outscored opponents 837-586 and have only allowed one team to score more than 50 points.
Senior forward Brielle Kelly has scored 324 points this season and is averaging 18 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Senior guard Sydney Sapir is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 assists per game, while junior forward Sarah Singer is contributing 6.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and has 26 blocks so far this season. Senior guard Paige Burton is also in on the action with 6.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Jefferson’s defense will have to be on point if it wants a chance at the semifinals. As of Wednesday the Falcons were 15-4 and riding a 10-game winning streak. Senior guard Imani Brown is leading the charge with 18.2 points per game and has scored less than 10 points only once this season. Sophomore forward/center Julia Murawinski is averaging 10.9 points and is the leading rebounder with 33 so far this season. The rest of the offense is spread out among Alyssa Soto, Renee Lopez and Jasmine Amro.
West Morris and Jefferson will be the second game of the four-game series, with a 1:30 p.m. tip-off time.
4. Chatham vs. 5. Mount Olive
Mount Olive, which fell in the first round as the No. 13 seed last year has put together a very strong season so far, with a 15-3 record as of Wednesday and having won seven of its last eight games.
Junior guard Sarah Wells leads the team with 15.1 points per game and senior guard Morgan Torstenson isn’t far behind with 10.3 points per game. Mount Olive is well-rounded when it comes to scoring, as six different players scored in the first quarter alone against Whippany Park. Chatham will have to deal with the Marauders’ “System,” which subs a number of players in and out at a time to ensure fresh legs on the court.
The fourth-seeded Cougars were 10-7 as of Wednesday having gone 3-3 over their last six games. Chatham is led offensively by sophomore guard Cassandra Falone (12.2 ppg.), senior guard Natalie Washuta (8.8 ppg.) and senior forward Colleen Mulvaney (6.6 ppg.). The defense hasn’t allowed more than 50 points this season while the Marauders have held opponents under 45 points in the last 13 games. The last time these two teams met, back on Dec. 23, Chatham pulled out a 54-37 victory.
Tip-off for these two teams is slated for 3 p.m.
1. Morris Catholic vs. 9. Montville
The ninth-seeded Mustangs also made history on Saturday when they earned their first berth in the quarterfinals with a 55-48 victory over No. 8 Hanover Park. Montville has a tough test on its hands, as Morris Catholic is one of the toughest teams in the county.
The Crusaders, which advanced with a 57-37 victory over No. 16 Morris Hills, will be looking to repeat as MCT champion after defeating Hanover Park 41-35 last season for its ninth overall title. As of Wedmesday, Morris Catholic was 16-1, having lost to Roselle Catholic 41-38 back on Dec. 30. Since then, the team has outscored opponents 748-347 and have allowed 40 points only once this season.
Senior guard Alexa Giuliano leads the team with 18.5 points per game and has hit 52 3-pointers this season, while senior center Anna Toke is the leading rebounder with 6.4 per game. Senior guard Charlotte Schum, sophomore guard Rachel Mills, sophomore guard/forward Stella Johnson and junior forward Kate Feeney are also dangerous on the floor.
Montville (11-8) has won just two of its last five games, but don’t count the Mustangs out. Senior guard Katie O’Reilly and her sister, sophomore guard Kelly O’Reilly, lead the team with 298 points a piece as well as 78 rebounds a piece. The sisters are averaging 15.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and Katie has hit 51 3-pointers so far this season. Senior forward Tami Lake is the leading rebounder with 6.1 per game, and Montville has gotten a strong effort from a number of players, including junior forward Jennie Lake, freshman forward Jane Beiermeister and senior Carly DeNigris.
Morris Catholic and Montville will be the final game Saturday with tip-off scheduled for 4:30 p.m.