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Mustangs thrive at the foul line

Bella Vito of Montville takes the ball to the hoop while being guarded by Morristown's Tara O'Neill in Morris County Tournament quarterfinal action. Photos by Maryann Harlow Bella Vito of Montville takes the ball to the hoop while being guarded by Morristown's Tara O'Neill in Morris County Tournament quarterfinal action.
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DENVILLE _ Montville got the test it was looking for.

Bella Vito and Emma Wax combined for 32 points to lead the top-seeded Mustangs past never-say-die Morristown, 47-34, in a Morris County Tournament quarterfinal game Saturday, Feb. 15 at Morris Knolls High School.

Montville, the last remaining unbeaten team in Morris County, will play Villa Walsh in an MCT semifinal on Friday, Feb. 21at the County College of Morris in Randolph at 8 p.m.

Eighth-seeded Morristown took a 10-5 lead after one quarter and the Colonials had a 19-16 advantage at halftime. But the Mustangs outscored Morristown 14-7 in the third quarter to go up 30-26 before closing it out with a 17-8 fourth quarter to win by 13 points.

The Mustangs (19-0) came in winning games by an almost 18-point margin and, for most of the game, it was Morristown which led Montville through almost the entire second half.

"They really gave us a good battle and we had to earn everything we got," said Wax, the 5-foot-9 senior who scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out two assists. "We increased our defensive pressure and that really opened up some good opportunities for us, especially in the second half."

Montville made 11 shots from the floor to 3 for Morristown. The Mustangs won the game at the foul line, sinking 20 free throws to six for Morristown.

Junior Bella Vito led all scorers with 18 points and also grabbed seven rebounds with three assists and her twin sister, Dani, chipped in with seven points and five rebounds for the Mustangs.

Bella Vito is averaging 14.6 points per game this season. Wax leads Montville in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game. Wax, headed to play at Marist College next season, currently has 1,242 points in her standout career with the Mustangs. Wax made eight free throws and Bella Vito netted nine foul shots to spark Montville's strong effort from the line.

"We knew Morristown would be tough since they are an excellent team that we played earlier in the year," said Bella Vito, speaking of the 50-30 win Montville secured over the Colonials on Jan. 16. "They gave us everything we could handle today, too."

Montville's signature non-conference win so far this season was over Watchung Hills (18-4) of the Skyland Conference on Jan. 6th.

So far in the NJAC-American Division this season, Montville is 11-0 and is assured of clinching at least a tie for first place. The one previous championship for Montville in girls basketball came in 1980 in the Northern Hills Conference-Suburban Division.

This year, besides the league, Montville is looking to add some hardware in its trophy case in both in the MCT and the state tournament as the No. 2 seed in North Jersey Section 1, Group III.

"We will look to go as far as we can," said Wax, who along with her teammates, played a superb defense in the second half. "Everything is on the line from here on out the rest of the season."

Before its monumental MCT semifinal encounter with Villa Walsh, Montville is home to Mendham (8-10, 3-5) on Monday and has the opportunity to clinch the league championship outright. Next, the Mustangs host Morristown (13-7, 6-4) on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in another division game.

"This was a real good game to get us ready for the rest of what we want to achieve this season," said Montville coach Derek Lynn.

Leading the way for Morristown was senior Tara O'Neill with 13 points and five rebounds followed by junior Aziah Adams with 11 points and senior Kolby Lynch with six points and eight rebounds.

"The girls played with everything they had. They put their entire heart into it," said Morristown coach Jim Pisciotto. "We had a few times where if a shot or two went down, we could have taken a bigger lead and put more pressure on them but the effort was there all the way. We gave it everything we had for the entire 32 minutes."

Montville reached its only MCT final in 1978 under legendary coach Pat Vytell, who also was a highly-regarded field hockey coach at the school in addition to coaching softball and track and field.

Vytell, a member of the Montville High School Hall of Fame and the New Jersey State Coaches Hall of Fame, taught in the district from 1972 through 2013 and was a pioneer in girls high school sports in New Jersey.

She was part of a three-women committee that fought for equal opportunities for girls and women's sports in Morris County from 1973 through 1975 and was responsible, along with Ruth Kellett and Marge Giles, for initiating several of the girls county tournaments, including basketball.

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

Last modified onMonday, 17 February 2020 12:15

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