The West Morris High School girls basketball team is looking to make history this weekend.
Behind a career-high 38 points from senior forward Brielle Kelly, the Wolfpack advanced to the NJSIAA Group III final for the first time in school history on Thursday night with a 67-63 semifinal victory over Northern Highlands.
West Morris will face Woodrow Wilson of Camden, which defeated Middletown South 51-50 in the other semifinal, on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River in the Group III final.
West Morris last advanced to the Group III semifinals in 2011, where it fell to Teaneck 90-48.
“We’re so excited because we just broke school history by getting this far because we’ve never done this before,” Senior forward Brielle Kelly said. “It’s huge.”
In Thursday’s win, a see-saw game through most of the first half quarters, it was Kelly who took West Morris to the lead in the third quarter, scoring all 22 of her team’s points for a 52-51 lead after three quarters.
The two teams traded the lead in the fourth quarter, with West Morris using an 9-0 run for a 60-57 lead with 2:07 to play and Kelly closed it out with five trips to the foul line in the last 57.2 seconds, making 7 of 10 free throws.
“I’m so proud of her,” teammate Paige Burton said of Kelly. “With her foul shots especially with the pressure and she handled it so well, she kept so composed, she really helped us.”
Kelly said West Morris’ main plan of attack was to get Northern Highland’s top scoring threats in foul trouble early, and that’s exactly what they did. The Highlanders had a number of big players, including Melissa Heath, who combined with Madison Dunbar for 24 points in the first half of Thursday’s game. To ge Heath out of the way, the Wolfpack forced her to foul and she was sent to the bench in the second quarter with three, and then fouled out late in the fourth.
“I see that and I think that’s a reason to go in and attack on them and draw the fouls right away,” Kelly said. “Get their bigs out so it would be easier for the next half, and that’s exactly what we did, we got her in foul trouble.”
“It definitely helped the first half and the last 30 seconds, when she was on the court it was a different game,” Burton said of Heath.
Against Camden Wilson on Sunday, West Morris will most likely use the same plan of attack.
Senior Chanelle Perry, a 2,000-point scorer, leads the Tigers (22-8) with 21 points per game. Lyayshia Stevens (13.6 ppg., 5 apg.), Tamara Sellers (10.6 ppg.), Shanayah Allen (8.1 ppg., 1.3 rpg.) and Ciarah Bennett (8.5 ppg.) round out Camden Wilson’s roster.
“I say just attack on them regardless of if they have an advantage,” Kelly said. “We have an advantage because we have Sydney Sapir who’s quick, Kendall (Ballotti) who’s just always there, so when they have an advantage so do we so we just put our aspects on there.”
West Morris, which won the rebound battle against Northern Highlands on Thursday, will have to keep the pressure up on defense and fight for the edge on rebounds. If the Wolfpack can adhere to the same plan of attack, getting the big players in foul trouble early, hit their shots and play tough defense, look for West Morris to be Group III champion.