DENVILLE _ Meghan Macaluso was in the right place at the right time. And, because of it, she delivered the biggest clutch basket of her career for the Hanover Park Hornets at the most opportune moment of the game.
Macaluso, a 5-foot-11 senior forward, made an opening for herself underneath on the left side and hit a layup with 1.1 seconds left in overtime to give fourth-seeded Hanover Park a 48-46 victory over fifth-seeded Randolph in a Morris County Girls Basketball Tournament quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 9 at Morris Knolls High School.
"When I was a sophomore, I missed the front end of a one and one in a tournament at Bernards which would have given us a chance to win the game," Macaluso said. "I felt bad but we won that one in overtime. I wanted to step up as a senior. This was nice time to do it. No one lets me forget about the time I missed. I was proud that I could help out in any way I could."
Macaluso finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds for Hanover Park, which also got solid efforts from senior Martina Wulf (11 points, 10 rebounds) and junior point guard Brielle Junda, who scored all 11 of her points and had two 3-point field goals in the first half. Junda also had four assists.
“We’re pretty much a veteran team and we kept our poise even after Randolph rallied from behind to tie it in the fourth quarter,” said Doug Wear, in his 17th year at the Hornets' helm. “Brielle gave us a big lift early and then Meghan came up big in the overtime. We got important contributions from a lot of different sources.”
Randolph trailed, 42-33, after senior Kelsey Stites made a runner in the lane for the Hornets with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. But then coach Pete Torres’ Rams went on an 11-2 tear to end the fourth quarter, with senior Angeleen Mulero (11 points) and sophomores Samira Santana (9 points, 10 rebounds) and Olivia Turner (8 points, 6 rebounds) all contributing big plays.
Hanover Park led, 44-39, with 4:18 remaining in the fourth after a Stiles putback but Randolph scored the last five points to knot it up at 44-44 and send it into the four minutes of bonus time.
Turner made a six-foot-bank shot with 1:04 left in the overtime session for Randolph to deadlock it at 46-46 again and set the stage for Macaluso’s heroics.
“It was definitely nerve-racking,” said Macaluso. “First it was them, then us. We were going back and forth with the lead. We wanted to go to the semifinals. We made it my first three years and we wanted to do it for a fourth straight year. I’m really proud of all my teammates.”
Randolph held a 13-6 advantage after one quarter. However, Junda had seven of her points in the second quarter to help Hanover Park back into the game. A 3-point field goal by Junda from 22 feet off the left elbow with two seconds remaining in the second quarter sent the Hornets into halftime tied, 25-25.
With a 35-32 edge after three quarters, the Hornets went on a 7-1 run to build their lead to 42-33 yet Randolph refused to wilt.
“Pete does a great job coaching them and we had to withstand a big test as they really pressured us a lot the rest of the way,” Wear said. “I’m happy our players hung in there and pulled out the victory.”
Macaluso also knew it was a total team effort that was responsible for the two-point OT victory.
“We have a lot of experienced players and we don’t lose our composure,” Macaluso said. “There wasn’t much time left on the clock for a game-winning shot. If I don’t make, maybe I'd still get fouled and go to the line for two free throws. We should have been able to hold out (and keep our nine-point lead). We persevered and never stopped attacking,"
Wear felt that defense had a big impact on the outcome.
“Usually we play a 2-3 zone on defense and, today, we went to a 3-2 zone to match up better,” said Wear. “The defense remains strong, no matter what. We have really good communication between our forwards (Wulf, Macaluso and junior Dara DiMaiolo. Dara helped with 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. Everyone played big on the defensive end when we needed it.”
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