1,000th point for Montville's Kowalski
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RANDOLPH _ Grace Kowalski wasn't going to be deprived of sports during the pandemic.
Two and and half weeks after Kowalski, then a freshman, and Montville claimed their first Morris County Girls Basketball Tournament title in February of 2020, New Jersey was shut down by COVID. That didn't stop Kowalski from being active. She kept shooting and took up golf, hitting small Wiffle balls around the yard. Before long, the property was transformed into the most ultimate of Frisbee courses.
"We have all woods so Grace set it up," said her mother, Karin.
That same determination and drive have led to additional accomplishments in the classroom, the gym and on the field. On Friday, Feb. 10, Kowalski, a senior, made another memory at County College of Morris, scoring her 1,000th point in the second-seeded Mustangs' 69-46 victory over No. 3 Chatham in a MCT semifinal.
"This is just amazing," said Kowalski, who reached 1,000 in the second quarter and finished with 21 points. "I always wanted this in my high school career. To have it happen in the county semis, on the big stage... This is so good. I couldn't do it without my teammates and coaches."
And, of course, the win and achievement were special because they vaulted Montville, unbeaten in its last nine games, into the MCT final opposite top-seeded and defending chamoion Morris Catholic, which triumphed 75-44 over Randolph in the other semifinal.
"Being here as a freshman and being able to come back again is great," Kowalski said. "We have come full circle. Tobe back in the final is nice. It will be a great memory."
Kowalski entered the game needing 11 points. She knew she was nearing the milestone but was unaware of the amount needed.
"I thought it would be this game," she said. "I knew when I heard everyone cheering really loudly."
During her tenure at Montville, two of Kowalski's teammates, Emma Wax and Bella Vito, surpassed 1,000 points. Three others - the O'Reilly sisters, Kelly and Katie, and Julianne Kowalski - have reached the coveted mark. Kowalski was the first to score 1,000, doing so in 2007.
"I'm so proud of Grace," Mustangs coach Derek Lynn said. "She's worked so hard on her game and you like for things like this to happen to people like her."
There was no big postgame celebration planned. Kowalski, who will attend The College of New Jersey, intended on resting to prepare for next week's games against Ramapo, Jefferson and Morris Catholic. However, Kowalski and her mother will soon make a trip to Dick's Sporting Goods to purchase the latest pair of Steph Curry sneakers, her reward for hitting 1,000.
Montville (20-3) thrived with its motion offense and turned its agressive defense into easy layups. It was the Mustangs' third meeting with the Cougars, a familiar NJAC-American Division opponent.
"We did what we always do," said Lynn. "We scouted and watched film. We looked for tendencies and all that. We split the first two games. What happened in this one was all up to the players. We didn't want to settle for jump shots. We got our motion offense working."
Katie Gorski (14 points), Carey Werheim (13) and Jackie Cinella (11) joined Kowalski in double figures. In addition to points, Kowalski also led with five steals and five assists. Chatham received 16 points from Mia Semioli and 14 from Ella Kreuzer.
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