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Morris Catholic fends off Villa Walsh

DENVILLE _ It has been a season of extremes thus far for Morris Catholic. Solid efforts followed by lackluster ones. Letdowns on defense after stretches in which the Crusaders have been relentless. On Monday, Jan. 30, Morris Catholic coach Rich Fachet was witness to a strong start by his young team as the Crusaders raced out to a 12-3 lead in the first quarter versus Villa Walsh and soon went up 16-3. Foul trouble ensued and the Vikings began to solve center Emma Duerr, who had six points in the opening period. Three minutes and 18 seconds after halftime, Morris Catholic's lead was in…

Lemieux plays big for Falcons

SPARTA _ Jefferson's Nicole Lemieux was not gifted with height. Lemieux, a junior forward, stands just 5 foot 6 but that's not a detriment. When she is called upon to mix it up with players taller and stronger, she simply takes on the challenges. On Friday, Jan. 20, Falcons coach James MacDermid put Lemieux on the court midway through the first quarter in what he termed "a nightmare scenario." And, Lemieux, the replacement for 6-foot-3 freshman Shelby Murawinski who had two fouls, immediately went to work, getting tips, boxing out and disrupting Sparta's offense. "I know I'm small," said Lemieux, a major…

Millburn upends 'greedy' Chatham

MILLBURN _ Thirty three. That number will be stuck in the mind of Chatham coach Joe Gaba for awhile. Gaba could not comprehend how the Cougars, typically stingy on defense, could surrender so many points to Millburn by halftime. He wasn't knocking the Millers' offense and solid play. It's just that Chatham's "D" is so reliable and cohesive that a subpar showing was difficult to fathom. "That was our worst defensive effort this season," Gaba said following the Cougars' 58-55 setback to Millburn on Friday, Jan. 13. "We got greedy. Instead of steady on-ball defense, we tried to do too much." For their three previous games,…

Special moment for MK's Sweetser

DENVILLE _ For Morris Knolls senior Rachel Sweetser, one final start and one final basket provided contentment and satisfaction. Sweetser, sidelined since suffering a torn ACL in the Golden Eagles' last scrimmage versus Somerville on Dec. 13, bid farewell to high school basketball in a game against Belvidere on Monday, Jan. 9. Being among the first five again and getting a layup off the opening tip meant the world to Sweetser, a three-sport athlete. She will long remember Krista Mitarotonda winning the tip and Vanessa Elliott setting up the last field goal of her career. "It's closure," Sweeter said, explaining why the…

Lakers hold on for second win

MADISON _ Mountain Lakes' players couldn't help but think back of their one-point loss to Villa Walsh when Madison chipped away at their lead in the fourth quarter. The Dodgers got within four points with 4:22 left but the Lakers didn't fold. Instead, Mountain Lakes got the next two baskets and proceeded to outscore Madison 11-6 to gain a 38-29 win on Tuesday, Jan. 3. "Our nerves got ahold of us in some of our games and we began to overthink everything," said senior forward Krysta Rigby, whose 17 points paced Mountain Lakes. "Today, we focused and played the way we can. We kept turnovers to…

Colonials rely on defense

ROCKAWAY _ Hanover Park's accuracy from outside the arc in the first quarter left Morristown's Elizabeth Strambi quite unsettled. Strambi didn't anticipate trailing 6-0 so quickly as the Hornets opened the scoring by netting back-to-back 3-pointers nor did she figure on the Colonials wilting against the press. "They scored big in the first quarter," Strambi said. "It was pretty crazy.We practiced against the press but didn't do what we practiced." It turned out that major panic didn't evolve from the stressful scenario. Slowly but surely, the Colonials began thriving with their man-to-man defense and gained the lead, 17-15, with 4.8 seconds remaining…

Wolfpack stumble in tourney

BASKING RIDGE _ No matter what the circumstances during his 11-year tenure as head coach of the West Morris girls basketball team, Fran Gavin never questioned his team's effort and hustle. That's why Gavin was so perplexed after the Wolfpack lost 51-36 to Immaculata in a matchup at the Len Sepanak Memorial Tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Ridge High School. "I'm extraordinarily disappointed," a very glum Gavin said. "I don't get it. By far, this is the youngest and most inexperienced team we've had but, typically, that doesn't matter. They always play hard. I didn't see that today. It…

Vikings rattle rival Red Hawks

PARSIPPANY _ A mere four points separated Parsippany Hills and Parsippany after Madison Miller's layup with 2:44 remaining. Donnie Forster, whose Vikings were clinging to the slim lead, requested a timeout and went over a play. Shortly after, seniors Katie Kerrigan and Victoria Lombardi delivered. Kerrigan nailed a 3-pointer 28 seconds later, boosting Par Hills' advantage to a much more comfortable seven points on the way to a 40-36 win over rival Parsippany. "That was a pick and pop off a screen with Victoria," Forster said. "It was a big play. We had quite a few. It's great beating your…

Randolph gets on track

DENVILLE _ Randolph's players simply could not contain themselves after their 48-42 victory over Morris Knolls. The Rams hugged one another and got loud after the win, their second of the 2016-17 season, and raced into their post-game meeting laughing and with wide smiles on their faces. To some, the reaction may have been too much, too early. However, for Randolph, which took control of the Dec. 21 NJAC-National Division game with an 18-0 run that bridged the second and third quarters and sealed it with a 10-for-13 showing at the free throw line over the final 4:40, it was a release after a…

Mustangs begin new era

MONTVILLE _ Derek Lynn was extremely thorough, of course, when preparing Montville for the 2016-17 season. Lynn and the Mustangs went through their paces, doing drill after drill, running through plays and making sure they were well conditioned. However, Montville, which defeated Mendham 49-42 in a season opener on Friday, Dec. 16, didn't get to one important aspect of the game. "We really haven't practiced late-game situations yet," Lynn said. "It still went pretty well. We weren't great but we were pretty good." Montville, which led 28-20 at halftime, was above average late in the second half, especially in the waning minutes, maintaining calm…