RANDOLPH _ As a lacrosse goalie, Jefferson's Victoria Pietraszkiewicz is accustomed to accustomed to getting bruises. Plenty of them.
"I'm used to the pounding," Pietraszkiewicz said. "I have bruises all over me when I get home after practices and games. It's part of the game."
Pietraszkiewicz bears black and blues from playing basketball as well. The fearless junior forward never fails to go all out, recklessly diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds and being physical.
The willingness to dive and to constantly put herself in in the midst of the action has paid great benefits for the second-seeded Falcons, who rallied in the fourth quarter and defeated Hanover Park, 44-40, in a Morris County Basketball Tournament semifinal on Friday, Feb. 15 at County College of Morris.
"It doesn't bother me," Pietraszkiewicz insisted. "Really. I've been playing basketball since third grade. I'm usually on the floor. I go for the ball."
It truly doesn't as evidenced by the junior forward's effort vs. the third-seeded Hornets. Pietraszkiewicz's stat line showed eight points, six rebounds and four assists. What it didn't display were the times she was face down under the basket or the instances when she got her hands on the ball causing a change in possession and momentum.
Jefferson (19-3) had to work extra hard for this victory, one that vaulted it into its second consecutive MCT final. Trailing by nine points midway through the third quarter after Ava Gammo's 3-pointer, the Falcons, wo will meet top-seeded Morristown for the MCT title, outscored the Hornets 19-6 the rest of the way.
Freshman Madison Eisele scored all six of her points in the rally. Eisele, 4 for 4 from the free throw line, took down four rebounds and had three steals. Jefferson standout Taylor Langan, having an off night, contributed six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. Her layup 2:07 into the closing period knotted the score, 38-38. At 1:55, after numerous misses on both ends, Eisele made a steal and was fouled. She snapped the deadlock by netting a pair of foul shots.
"It was a really big game so I was glad to do something for the team," Eisele said. "Everyone was really positive and that made my confidence and energy high."
In addition to her scrappy play, Pietraszkiewicz also apparently has a knack for knowing that Jefferson will come out on top, no matter what the circumstances.
"We've been working hard at this all week," she said. "It was a lot of pressure being here but that's normal. I felt we could come back. We attacked every rebound and made good outlet passes. We kicked the ball out to the shooters. If we keep going like this, we will be fine."
Coach James MacDermid lauded the Falcons for taking command and coming back.
"We weathered their run," he said. "The girls knew they needed to get the lead and they played great defense, pressuring the perimeter and getting turnovers. Taylor's our star player but a lot of others stepped up like Madison. This is a good cast. It's someone new every night. One or more of them elevate play."
Alexa Bursese paced the Hornets with 12 points and Gammo followed with 11.
Morristown 37, Chatham 22
The Colonials, behind 14 points by Elizabeth Strambi, did not look sharp in the second game of the doubleheader at CCM but still emerged with a victory.
"Our coach says 'Survive and advance,'" said Strambi, a senior guard. "It wasn't pretty at all but we played hard. I'm happy to get the win."
Fifth-seeded Chatham was without its point guard, Chloe Blanc, sidelined with a torn ACL. Blanc, watching from a wheelchair near the bench, sustained the injury on Wednesday when the Cougars met Bayonne. Minus Blanc, Chatham sputtered.
The Cougars held a very early edge, leading 4-2, before Morristown reeled off seven points to close out the first period. From there, Chatham stayed close but the Colonials widened the gap. Morristown put together a 19-point run, fueled by Strambi's 11 points and Kayla Bush's four, and pulled in front, 28-7, with 4:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Strambi had mixed feelings about the victory because of Blanc's misfortune. Many of the Colonials hugged Blanc in the lobby otside the gym after the game.
"Chloe is my friend from AAU basketball," Strambi said. "When I heard what happened, I cried a little. I'm super excited for the final. It's going to be tough."
Veronica Kelly, a junior, topped Chatham with 13 points and Camryn Davies had five. Kimberley Calloway joined Strambi in double figures with 11.
"I'll take one just like it next Friday," Colonials coach Jim Pisciotto said of the win which was marred by inaccurate shooting."We've played Chatham before. We know them. They know us. Our goal coming in was to play next week and we accomplished that."
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