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Crusaders, behind Rosenfeld, get chance to defend

Morris Catholic's Alexis Rosenfeld, No. 11, played excellent defense in addition to scoring 18 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Photos by Maryann Harlow Morris Catholic's Alexis Rosenfeld, No. 11, played excellent defense in addition to scoring 18 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
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RANDOLPH _ Alexis Rosenfeld's presence and involvement on the court, in her own words, "changed the dynamic" for Morris Catholic this season.

Rosenfeld, who stands 6 foot 2, is a formidable force on both ends of the hardwood and, apparently, knows her worth.

In the second MCT semifinal on Friday, Feb. 10, Rosenfeld, a transfer from Saddle River Day School, dominated, scoring 18 points and taking down 18 rebounds to fuel the Crusaders' 75-44 win over the Rams at County College of Morris.

"Alexis is a huge piece of the puzzle," Morris Catholic coach Billy Lovett said. "She protects the rim on the defensive end and can get out and pressure teams. Alexis was an excellent addition to the team."

Rosenfeld matched her career-high for points, which she attained versus Hanover Park and Boonton this season. She had six points in the opening quarter, converting with a hook shot, folowing a scramble near the basket and getting a putback to help the Crusaders to a 19-13 lead.

The Rams (19-2) struck from long range with great success early on, receiving two 3-pointers from Kayla Brand and one from Katie Tighe. Randolph seemed determined to put up a fight and did not back down. Rosenfeld immediately noticed the Rams' intensity.

"I think we came out underestimating them," Rosenfeld said. "Randolph is strong and scrappy. We prepared but we could've been more prepared. We eventually gained the confidence we needed. Our coaches always tell us to have confidence in ourselves and each other."

Another player who contributed to Morris Catholic (20-3) advancing to the title game against Montville was Daniella Matus, who came into the gym hoping that she had fixed her 3-point shot. Despite having 10 treys in her previous six games, Matus, who finished with a game-high 19 points, felt she wasn't hitting often enough from long range. Matus and her father, Mike, went to a nearby gym and worked on her shot which she felt was "a little off."

It was evident that the time was well spent as Matus fired in a trio of 3s. She displayed high energy on defense throughout and ended with a game-high 19 points. Matus scored all of her points over the first three quarters and went 4 for 4 from the foul line.

"I really felt ready coming into tonight's game," Matus said. "I think my problem was with my feet. I focused on my shooting in a gym after school then took a lot of shots during warmups."

The Crusaders began the second period with nine unanswered points. Mya Pauldo had four of her 10 points during that span. Her putback after two misses occurred with 4:20 remaining until halftime and capped the burst, putting the Crusaders on top, 28-13.

Morris Catholic's biggest offensive showing came in the third when it outscored Randolph, 21-11. A steal and subsequent three-point play by Mia Pauldo (13 points) enabled the Crusaders to push their advantage to 42-23 three minutes after halftime. Morris Catholic thrived with free throws, netting 9-of-9 attempts in the eight minutes after the break.

"I felt we played well. Pretty good," Lovett said. "We could be better. We didn't shoot very well. We did defend and execute well. I'm proud of them."

Randolph had its 13-game winning streak snapped with the setback to Morris Catholic.

"We had a plan," Rams coach Pete Torres said. "We got sped up and didn't follow it. You can't race with them. They're so fast."

The game was a bit odd for Aliyah Huland El, the former Randolph standout who played for Torres' wife, Kristin, before going on to the University of Virginia. Huland El, along with her father, Rahim, are members of the Morris Catholic coaching staff.

"It was nostalgic and very conflicting," the younger Huland El said. "It was fun, of course. You want to compete at all times but, you know... It's Randolph. All you can do is try to keep it classy. We hugged and talked before the game."

Rosenfeld, a member of the Saddle River Day squad that claimed the Bergen County Tournament crown in 2022, now gets the opportunity to try and win one in Morris. The Crusaders, well-acquainted from playing for the New Jersey Sparks year round, take on Montville on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at CCM.

"I'm really excited about the final and the states," she said. "We have new energy."


Last modified onSaturday, 18 February 2023 14:05
Sandy Seegers

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