DENVILLE – Anticipation was on Cassandra Montgomery’s side.
With 15.9 seconds to play in overtime, West Morris’ sophomore guard was in the right place at the right time to seal the Wolfpack’s 48-45 victory over fourth-seeded Chatham in the Morris County Tournament quarterfinals at Morris Knolls.
Fifth-seeded West Morris (13-6) advanced to Friday night’s semifinal round at the County College of Morris against No. 1 seeded Morris Catholic, a 58-14 winner over ninth-seeded Morris Hills.
West Morris held a 45-43 lead with 39.7 seconds to play in overtime after Chatham junior guard Cassandra Falone, who scored a game-high 30 points, knocked down her sixth 3-pointer of the game. Junior forward Ilissa Webb hit the first of two free throws with 26.3 seconds remaining to give West Morris a 46-43 edge. On Chatham’s ensuing trip down the floor, Montgomery intercepted a pass by Falone and drove for a layup that opened a 48-43 lead for the Wolfpack with 15.9 seconds to go.
“I saw her coming up and she did it a few times during the game, where she would stop and pass to the right,” said Montgomery, who scored eight points. “So I knew it was coming and I just kind of jumped in the air and got it. It was a really good feeling. Falone is a great player, I used to play with her. She has great skills, is a great player and she’d very hard to defend because she has a high basketball IQ. Chatham is a great team and they beat us before, so we wanted revenge.”
Falone made two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining to get Chatham (12-9) to within 48-45.
“Cassandra (Montgomery) is a really good student and a very smart kid and that translates to how well she plays basketball,” West Morris coach Fran Gavin said. “So my compliments to her. She reads things well and plays very smart. That was a big steal and important points.”
West Morris was in position to win the game in regulation. Trailing 36-32 after Falone hit the front end of a one-and-one with 2:05 remaining, the Wolfpack scored the next five points. Beni Emiliano scored two of her eight points with a layup, Madeline Selvaggi made one of two free throws and Webb found senior forward Sarah Singer under the basket for a layup with 24.1 seconds to play that put West Morris ahead 37-36 with 24.1 seconds to play. Falone sent the game to overtime when she made the second of two free throws with 20.5 seconds to play.
Singer was a key for West Morris in the overtime with seven of her 19 points, including five of six free throws.
“At the end, we figured that their two big kids (Veronica Kelly and Olivia Diaz-Saavedra) who had foul trouble, would be less aggressive,” Gavin said. “So the goal was to go right in and at them. So, that brought Sarah into play, and she’s kind of hard to handle anyway.”
Webb and junior Katlyn Bridges contributed five points apiece for West Morris.
“Even in the overtime there were some points where it was close,” Singer said. “But I feel that once our guards got the ball down low and they fouled us, we were able to get the lead. That seemed like a really long overtime, but we made the most of it. Cassandra’s steal really increased our adrenaline. That was a great game. I feel like a close game like that are the best games to play because it really shows ours strengths.”
Kelly and Chloe Blanc, both freshmen, scored four points each for Chatham.
“Our coach told us to go out there with heart, ” Montgomery said. ” Those last few seconds of the game, we knew that we had that. We didn’t want to give up and we played with our hearts all the way to the end.”