Even after the Crusaders' 69-50 loss to Gill-St. Bernard's in the Non-Public B final, D'Amico was still grinning and seemingly delighted.
"This is so great for the team and the school," D'Amico said. "I'm so excited we got here. We made it this far. I'm proud of all we accomplished."
Morris Catholic (23-4) claimed the North Jersey Non-Public B title and nabbed a share of the NJAC-Independence Division. Its memorable season, though, ended with a setback to a team that had a whole lot of everything.
Gill-St. Bernard's, denied by Trenton Catholic in the last two Non-Public B finals, made the most of its height and big-game experience to claim its first state championship. The Knights (27-4) gobbled up rebounds and dominated inside with Dominique Vitalis and Taylor Rooks. The duo combined for 37 points, 29 rebounds and five blocks.
"They were very strong underneath," Crusaders forward Sade Idera said. "They got the rebounds. We didn't box out enough or work hard enough. When we did, it was too late."
Vitalis, a 6-foot-2 center who will continue her career at Georgetown University, had 13 points in the first half while the 6-foot-1 Rooks had 12. A good number of their baskets came off putbacks.
The Knights got off to a fast start, gaining a 17-8 first-quarter lead. After three misses by both teams, Morris Catholic's Alexa Giuliano (14 points) dropped in a layup for the first basket of the game. Thirteen seconds later, Vitalis went inside to score, commencing a 14-point run for Gill-St. Bernard's.
Every basket in the unanswered burst was a layup. With 2:42 left in the opening period, Vitalis had a three-point play for 13-2. Linnett Graber's free throw at 2:15 made it 14-2.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Knights continued to thrive near the basket. Sophomore Trevena Bennett had the first of Gill-St. Bernard's four 3-pointers 1:57 into the period for 22-8. Giuliano and Jess Porada had seven points apiece in the first half.
"We had an approach but we didn't follow it," Morris Catholic coach Rich Fachet said. "We wanted to be patient on offense and we weren't. We needed to get back on defense and didn't. We also didn't rebound."
In the second half, the Crusaders, appearing in their 11th final, the first since 2008, were more aggressive. Idera had a big quarter, posting eight points. The Knights went to the outside more and received 3-pointers from Linnett Graber, Sam Graber and Jasmine Sina.
"Our team came out great," said Knights coach Aaron Gratch, whose assistant is former Mendham coach Fred Corona. "We established an early lead and that really helped. Morris Catholic is very good. They have a balanced attack and dangerous players. We're excited to get the championship. It all went so quickly. It's a relief."
In addition to Giuliano, senior Danni Brown and Idera were in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Brown had nine points, including a 3-pointer, after halftime.
Linnett Graber, a senior headed to Babson, finished with 12 points, seven assists and five steals for Gill-St. Bernard's.
D'Amico, a tri-captain, and many of her teammates lingered at the arena, which she deemed "gorgeous."
"This experience was amazing," she said. "We worked hard. I'm so happy."
"We tried our hardest. We had fun," Idera said.
It was the first state final for Fachet, formerly the boys coach at Parsippany Hills.
"Not many get to this point," Fachet said. "It's a nice venue, a nice atmosphere. It's really an honor to get this far."