DENVILLE _ The turnovers were upsetting when Jefferson suffered an early-season loss to Montville. The Falcons were perturbed by their shooting, too.
What bothered Jefferson most, though, about the setback at the Mountain Lakes Tournament was something else. The Falcons' record dropped to a not-so-stellar 1-3. Not surprisingly, a team meeting was called. Jefferson turned it around but another matchup with the Mustangs loomed, this one in the Morris County Tournament quarterfinals.
The Falcons knew what it'd take and got ready for a major showdown. It didn't materialize.
Fifth-seeded Jefferson built a 10-point advantage in the first quarter and defeated the fourth-seeded Mustangs 34-22 on Saturday, Feb. 10 to gain revenge and advance to the MCT semifinals.
"We were so mentally prepared," said senior guard Taylor Langan, whose 19 points paced the Falcons. "We knew what tempo we needed. Everything we had to do, we did. I think we exceeded our expectations today. Every individual on this team has gotten better since the last time we played Montville. I think Montville's as sharp as anyone in the county. They come to play."
Montville's win over the Falcons in late December was by 11 points. Jefferson (17-4) committed 22 turnovers and was unable to convert. The Falcons got busy immediately in this MCT quarterfinal, scoring the first nine points.
"We were a little out of sorts after the last one," Jefferson coach James MacDermid said. "We reflected in the meeting and discussed what we were doing well and not doing well, teamwise and individually. We figured out what we could correct. We went on to win 12 in a row."
The Falcons, who have five seniors and start four of them, maintained a double-digit advantage for a good portion of the game. Montville, though, came back and pulled within five points of Jefferson, 21-16, on Amanda Gorski's putback with 3:03 remaining in the third period. The Falcons, MCT runners-up to Morristown in 2017, then had a seven-point run highlighted by five points by the Colgate-bound Langan.
"We slacked off a little bit there," Langan said. "It was not OK to take a break."
Sophomore Emma Wax netted a pair of 3-pointers for Montville in the fourth quarter and ended with a team-high 12 points. Victoria Pietraszkiewicz joined Langan in double figures with 11 points. Effective zone defense also figured into Jefferson's triumph.
"Right now, we're good defensively," MacDermid said. "We're good at reading offenses and intercepting passes. Montville has size and some really good shooters. To hold them to 22 points is really incredible. We're really cooking defensively."
Next up for the Falcons in the MCT is top-seeded and defending champion Morristown.
"We're all excited to go back to CCM," Langan said. "We saw what it was like. Our seniors know what it takes to come out on top."
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