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Jefferson, Chatham gain MCT semifinals

Charlotte Tuhy of Madison and Kiley Shatzel of Jefferson vie for control of the ball in a MCT quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2024. Photos by Sandy Seegers and Maryann Harlow Charlotte Tuhy of Madison and Kiley Shatzel of Jefferson vie for control of the ball in a MCT quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2024.
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DENVILLE _ When it comes to free throws, a well-known idiom applies to the Jefferson girls basketball team.

They know the drill. Or, in this instance, the drills.

The sixth-seeded Falcons work diligently on their foul shots during practice sessions, engaging in drill after drill. They prepare for pressure situations and possible late-game fatigue.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, it all paid off - again - when Jefferson defeated No. 3 Madison 41-35 in overtime in a Morris County Girls Basketball Tournament quarterfinal at Morris Knolls High School.

In the second game of the quadruple header, second-seeded Chatham beat No. 7 Pequannock, 54-37, behind 19 points by Mia Semioli and 16 by Addison Barrett.

"We've been really good at the free throw line," Falcons coach James MacDermid said. "We had a close game against Morris Knolls the other night and made 14-of-15 foul shots in the second half. We always try to come up with ways to make sure we're ready for games like this one."

Jefferson converted 11-of-12 free throws in the extra period to earn a berth in the MCT semifinals, which will take place on Friday, Feb. 9 at County College of Morris.

What exactly do the Falcons do to ensure success at the line? There's a golf drill where points are awarded for each shot made. Senior point guard Cassidy Ball (11 points) likes a drill which is done with a partner. While one player attempts two consecutive foul shots, a teammate runs around. Eventually, they both tire.

"It keeps us conditioned and there's background noise," said Ball, whose mother, Deborah Hoogmoed, was a four-year starter at point guard while at Ramapo High School and Kean University. "We never feel pressure on free throws. We work on free throws all the time. They're like a jumpshot."

Ball, 4 for 4 at the line in OT, netted 7-of-9 foul shots in the game. After making the last two with 40.9 seconds left, she committed her fifth foul 5.8 seconds later. No worries, though, as sophomore Emma Barone took over the ballhandling duties.

"Emma's talented," MacDermid said. "They've been splitting duties. We trust her."

It was a tight game throughout. The last tie was 26-26. The Falcons pulled ahead, 29-26, on a three-point play by Kiley Shatzel with 2:24 remaining. The fourth quarter ended with the score knotted, 30-30, following a basket by Madison's Devon Johnson off an inbounds pass at 37 seconds.

Four players went to the line for Jefferson, slated to meet second-seeded Chatham in the MCT Final Four at 6 p.m. on Friday, in the overtime. In addition to Ball, Maddy Manco (3 for 4), Shatzel (2 for 2) and Emily Poulas (2 for 2) thrived at the foul line in the fourth period.

Attaining a victory over Madison brought much satisfaction to the Falcons, who fell to the Falcons 54-24 on Jan. 13. Jefferson trailed 23-15 at halftime and was unable to recover.

"This was invigorating," Ball said. "We figured we'd play them again. We played our hearts out and came out on top."

Semioli's 19 points fuel Cougars

In the words of Chatham coach Joe Gaba, Pequannock's well-executed 2-3 zone "forced us sideways and backwards."

The Cougars, who entered their MCT quarterfinal riding a 17-game winning streak and playing exceptional basketball, likely perceived they'd rack up another victory. However, they expect to be challenged every time they take the court.

Sending the skein to 18 consecutive victories was tough but Chatham, up by two, 26-24, at halftime, pulled away quickly after the break, extending its lead to 13 by the end of the third quarter and went on to gain a 54-37 win. The stretch in which the Cougars asserted themselves featured a trio of 3-pointers by Semioli and 5-of-6 free-throw shooting by Ella Kreuzer. Chatham also changed to a full-court press.

"We executed better in the second half. We played forward and downhill," Gaba said. "Addison (Barrett) came alive for us and played well for the entire game. We take absolutely nothing for granted. Jen (Baggott) did a great job of getting her kids prepared."

The Golden Panthers remained a step behind after halftime. With 4:45 remaining in the third period, Chloe Vasquez had a three-point play to keep Pequannock close, 31-29. From there, the Cougars outscored Pequannock, 13-2. 


Last modified onFriday, 09 February 2024 12:41
Sandy Seegers

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