MCT quarterfinals: Randolph survives Dodgers' rally
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DENVILLE _ Aliyah Lambo is always willing to do whatever Randolph needs.
With 3.1 seconds remaining in the Rams' Morris County Tournament quarterfinal against Madison on Saturday, Feb. 4, she felt that it was an urgent plea.
"Watch your girl!" Lambo yelled to her teammates after missing the front end of a one and one in the waning seconds. Randolph led by two points and, to hold on, everyone needed to stay extra close to the player they were defending.
Lambo was upset about not making the foul shot but had been thinking ahead. The fifth-seeded Dodgers, well guarded and simply lacking the time to go end to end, launched a shot from near halfcourt but it was short, meaning that the Rams would advance to the MCT semifinals for the first time since 2020 with a 44-42 victory.
"I had to make sure I didn't foul," Lambo said. "We had to get back. We couldn't leave anyone open. We just couldn't foul. We worked hard to get to this spot. I was relieved. They trust me with free throws but sometimes I get into my own head."
Lambo, a sophomore forward, made plenty of contributions throughout the game, being a force on the boards (9 rebounds) and scoring 11 points, including seven in the first quarter, when the Rams took a 16-11 lead. What she wanted most was to do her part and get Randolph back to the MCT Final Four.
"This feels amazing," she said. "It wasn't just me. I wanted our seniors to go back to CCM and to get them the memories they want."
Rams coach Pete Torres was pleased with his team's play and lauded Lambo for helping on (Charlotte) Tuhy, the Dodgers' standout sophomore forward, for her intensity while rebounding and for going to the basket.
The Dodgers, down by 13 after Madison Jenisch's three-point play 1:30 into the fourth period put the Rams ahead 39-26, bounded back, reeling off eight consecutive points to get within five. It was a physical, frenzied stretch and the rally continued, capped by Tuhy's three-point play with 1:07 remaining that left Madison, coached by former Randolph assistant Lisa DiTuro, trailing by one, 43-42. Kayla Brand netted a free throw five seconds later to bump Randolph's edge to one point, 44-42.
Each team had chances at the foul line over the last 19.8 seconds but failed to convert.
"We always try to make sure not to play down, especially when we're up," said Lambo, an outside hitter for the volleyball team. "Madison coming back was us relaxing too much."
"Madison picked up the pressure and caused us to rush," Torres said. "It was a credit to them. We missed layups. They just rolled off. Madison is so big and and we don't have that height. Our biggest concern was controlling Tuhy."
It was a lesson learned for the Rams, who will meet top-seeded and defending champion Morris Catholic in a MCT semifinal on Friday, Feb. 10. The Crusaders, led by Natalie Stoupakis and Daniella Matus with 18 points apiece, cruised past Pequannock, 94-41, in the last game of the day. The Golden Panthers were without leading scorer Chloe Vasquez, who had cramps in her legs. Faith Tucker and Nicole Klimek finished with 15 and 10 points, respectively, for Pequannock.
Randolph (18-1) took charge early, pulling in front, 16-11, in the opening quarter. The Rams, who received a combined 23 points from the Madison and Sydney Jenisch, played at a fast pace and scored the initial eight points. Two were 3-pointers off the hands of Madison Jenisch and Lambo.
In the other two quarterfinals, third-seeded Chatham dispatched Hanover Park, 52-23, and second-seeded Montville topped Jefferson, 41-21.
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