Photos by Maryann Harlow Charlee Perna of Morris Knolls dribbles while guarded by the Crusaders' Ashley Labeach.
DENVILLE _ Morris Catholic has relied on many different elements to formulate an ultra-successful 2023-24 season.
Two of those elements are sophomore Kennedy Brown and senior Madison Miller, both transfers from Pope John in Sparta.
Brown and Miller, along with identical junior twin sisters Mya and Mia Pauldo, senior center Alexis Rosenfeld and freshman forward Jacquline Edelman, helped lead the top-seeded Crusaders to a 76-22 victory over ninth-seeded Morris Knolls in a Morris County Girls Basketball Tournament quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Morris Knolls High School.
Morris Catholic, which has won the last two MCT titles, moves on to play fourth-seeded Morristown (14-7), a 51-29 victor over 12th-seeded Randoph (11-10) in another MCT quarterfinal. They'll meet on Friday, Feb. 9 at College of Morris at 7:30 p.m. The Crusaders will be seeking their 14th MCT crown in the tournament, which started in 1975.
"We just want to help out in any way we can," said Miller, a 6-foot-3 senior center from Hardyston Township headed to play at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. next season. "We got out to a good lead and we just went from there."
Miller had two points and three rebounds and Brown, who hails from Jefferson, had 11 points, three rebounds and three assists for the Crusaders, who reeled off 19 consecutive points to open the game. Morris Catholic led 29-7 after one period and 48-12 at halftime.
"Our energy and focus were there all game long," said Brown. "We try to play the best defense we can and that can turn into productive offense with turnover-causing steals leading to layups and fast-break opportunities."
Mya Pauldo scored a game-high 28 points and had four rebounds, five assists and seven steals and Mia Pauldo contributed 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Edelman had seven points and six rebounds and Rosenfeld had four points and five rebounds.
Junior Charlee Perna led the way for Morris Knolls (12-7 overall, 6-2 in NJAC-National Division) with 12 points.
The very next day, Morris Catholic, undefeated after 19 games, prevailed, 50-43, in a major showdown with St. John Vianney (16-7) at Kean University. The Crusaders trailed the Lancers after three quarters, 41-39, but outscored the Monmouth Couny team, 11-2, over the final eight minutes to earn the come-from-behind victory. Mya Pauldo scored 12 points, including the 1,000th point of her career for Morris Catholic, and twin sister Mia had a game-high 19 points for the game and now has scored 1,460 points in her career. Stella Lockhart, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, led St. John Vianney with 16 points.
"We're playing quite confidently right now, no matter what the score is we feel we can do what we need to win the game," said Morris Catholic coach Billy Lovett, a player at St. Anthony of Jersey City in the mid-1990s under the legendary coaching of Bob Hurley Sr. "We just maintain our defensive intensity and then we get back in rhythm and make the shots we need to."
Morris Catholic is currently on a 32-game winning streak that stretches back more than a year ago. The Crusaders' last loss was to nationally-ranked Montverde Prep (Fla.) 54-43 on Jan. 21, 2023. They won the Non-Public B state championship for the fourth time last year, defeating Rutgers Prep, 71-63, in the title matchup. The Crusaders also won state Parochial B championships in 2006 (over Trenton Catholic), 2004 (over St. Rose of Belmar) and in 1986 (over Mater Dei of New Monmouth).
Lovett, in his sixth year at the helm of Morris Catholic, has a 117-28 record with the Crusaders.
Last modified onFriday, 09 February 2024 09:20