log in

Tennis

Website URL:

Mt. Olive triumphs; Wildcats exit

NEWARK _ Mount Olive's pitchers have been the epitome of stingy during the team's state tournament run.

Anna Callahan and Lindsey Walter have not given up an earned run in the Marauders' last five games, certainly an impressive feat. Their efforts may have been a bit overlooked because Mount Olive's bats are booming and have produced 33 runs during that stretch.

On Friday, May 31, Walter came on in relief of Callahan and allowed one hit over the last 2 1/3 innings when the Marauders defeated North Hunterdon 5-2 in a Group IV semifinal at Ivy Hill Park. The victory earned Mount Olive its first berth in a group title game.

"It's incredible what these pitchers are doing," Romano said. "It really is. Anna's been awesome. So has Lindsay. They're doing a great job."

Versus North Hunterdon, which ousted Mount Olive from the state tournament last year, the performances of Callahan and Walter were exceptional. Callahan started and went the first 4 1/3 innings and yielded three hits before encountering some trouble in the fifth. Walter came in from shortstop with one out and two on. She got the last two outs in the fifth inning then retired the side in order in the sixth. In the seventh, Walter gave up a hit but no harm was done. Within minutes, the Marauders (19-6) were celebrating the win that propelled them into the final opposite Hightstown.

Also pleased with Callahan (seven hits allowed over the last three games) and Walter was assistant coach Christy Vetere.

"Both pitchers hit their spots," Vetere said. "What's great about both is they take ownership and learn from their mistakes. Lindsay has a little more finesse than Anna. They've both been great. It's a good switch because teams have already seen Anna three times when Lindsay comes in. It gives the batters something different to look at."

Initially, the two junior pitchers were going to split the responsibilities. However, by mid-April, right after the Randolph Challenge, it was decided that Callahan would get the bulk of the work and Walter, a slick fielder and speedy leadoff batter, would relieve and start here and there. The rest literally is history as evidenced by the upcoming final appearance.

Mount Olive, which blanked Bergen Tech 7-0 to take the North Jersey Section 1, Group IV crown, received RBI hits from Gabby Grillo, Kaitlin Pettenger, Isabella Salafia, Alyssa Segnello and Walter and put across all of its runs in the third and fourth innings. Segnello smacked a two-out double and Walter finished with a pair of base hits.

"This is a great win," Romano said. "We're not done yet. We're not finished. We're not just happy to be there. We want to win."

Wildcats shut out by Cedar Grove

Whippany Park knew what it was up against in its Group I semifinal.

The young Wildcats weren't intimidated by the prospect of facing Cedar Grove ace Mia Faieta and went into the game at Ivy Hill Park hoping to score an upset.

Faieta, however, was in command and struck out 14 to power Cedar Grove to a 6-0 victory over Whippany Park on Friday, May 31.

"We knew their pitcher was one of the best in the state," Wildcats coach Todd Callaghan said. "It was going to be a challenge. Cedar Grove is more experienced right now. Their pitcher has been here. Ours is a sophomore. It was a good experience for us. We're young and we're only going to get better."

Cedar Grove took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on two-out hits by Katie Peterson and Gianna Bocchino. Peterson drove in the first run with a base hit before Bocchino laced a two-run single to left field. A sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made it 4-0. The final two runs came home in the fifth.

The only player to reach Faieta for a hit was Alexa DiGiorgio.

Claiming a sectional title was the highlight of Whippany Park's season. Callaghan thought the Wildcats, who start three freshman and a sophomore, had the talent to make it to the sectional final.

"Being in that final was great. Anything after that was a bonus," he said. "Roselle Park was a challenge. If we got past them, anything could happen."

Julia Swan went the distance for Whippany Park, striking out seven and walking three.

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

 

 

 

 

 

Cougars avenge loss to Wolfpack

CHATHAM _ Anna Lengner battled until the very end and she benefitted from some excellent glovework behind her, too.

Lengner threw a shutout for five innings and then stranded three base runners in scoring position in the final two frames to help Chatham edge West Morris Central, 3-2, in a North Jersey Section 2, Group III quarterfinal at Shunpike Field on Monday, May 20.

The third-seeded Cougars (16-8) have won five of their last six games and will host seventh-seeded Cranford, a 10-3 winner over second-seeded Belleville, in a state sectional semifinal game Thursday, May 23, at 4 p.m.

A senior right-hander, Lengner threw a complete game six-hitter, striking out 12 and walking one to propel the Cougars against the never-say-die Highlanders.

Sixth-seeded West Morris (12-9), which had won six of nine games coming in, trailed, 3-0 entering the top of the sixth inning. But leadoff hitter Olivia Malone, a junior catcher, belted a leadoff double into the right-center field gap, and one out later, senior center fielder Jocelyn Johannesen tripled home courtesy runner Madi Weese to make it 3-1. Then Lengner bore down and struck out the last two batters of the inning as the Cougars held on to a two-run advantage.

In the top of the seventh, junior shortstop Maddie Staley singled to left field to lead off for the resilient Highlanders. Then, after Lengner recorded a strikeout for the first out, Staley advanced to third on two wild pitches and junior left fielder Julie Dunn walked on a 3-and-2 delivery to put runners on the corners with one out.

After Dunn stole second base to put runners on second and third, West Morris sophomore and No. 9 batter Hayden Fehnel reached on a fielder's choice. No outs were recorded on the play when a rundown evolved into an errant throw past the plate and Staley scored to make it 3-2. Dunn was waved to third and Fehnel to second after the throw went out of play.

The potential tying run was now on third base and the possible go-ahead run was on second base with one out. But sophomore shortstop Kayla Friedman, with the infield in all the way around the diamond, came up big when she fielded a one-hop grounder perfectly and threw to senior catcher Kaitlin Pinaire, a converted infielder, who applied the tag for the second out of the inning.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Lengner induced a ground ball to sophomore second baseman Sara Iuzzulino, who made a nice play on a cue-shot to her right and threw to first base for the final out of the game.

Also playing solid defense for the Cougars were Hailey Coates and Jocelyn Spencer, who helped to keep the Highlanders from tying the score or taking the lead in the intense final two innings.

"I have a great deal of faith in my defense. I always know they will come up with the big play," said Lengner. "Whenever a ball is hit, I am always confident that the defense will manage to turn it into an out with some stellar fielding work."

Earlier in the season, West Morris Central defeated Chatham, 4-0, in a Morris County Tournament second-round game. Junior right-hander Lauren Mistkowski threw a no-hitter for the Wolfpack, striking out three and walking three versus second-seeded Chatham.
On Thursday, Mistkowski scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out one and walking one and helping to keep her team in the game.

"I just wanted to try as hard as I could to stop the run from scoring," said Friedman about her excellent defensive reaction and throw in the top of the seventh. "Earlier, I had not really done a good job on that relay-rundown play in which they scored a run and I wanted to bounce back from that and help my team out."

Chatham took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk to Lengner, a single by Friedman and a sacrifice fly by senior Sarah McCabe to score courtesy runner Lauren Sullivan.

"We wanted to try to try to get on the scoreboard first to kind of try to erase the feeling from that county game," said McCabe, who also played well defensively. "Getting ahead early was very important for us."

The Cougars added two runs in the bottom of the third inning on a leadoff single by sophomore Julia Yukniewicz, a one-out single by Spencer, a senior, and then an error that plated one run and an RBI grounder by Coates that made it 3-0.

Chatham defeated 14th-seeded Colonia, 9-1, in a state first-round game on Thursday, May 16. West Morris turned back 11th-seeded Snyder of Jersey City, 3-0, in the opening round last Thursday.

Chatham, with a roster of six seniors, two juniors and seven sophomores, has been competing well in the NJAC-American Division. Powers like Morris Knolls, Mount Olive, Pope John and Randolph are also in the division, along with usually talented clubs like Roxbury and Sparta.

"I think we've played well this year and are well-balanced and have competed hard in almost every game. We're especially tough at home," said Chatham fourth-year coach Brian Figueiredo. "We've been playing solid softball - offensively, defensive and pitching - so far in the states and we want that to continue."

West Morris Central has been making steady progress under third-year coach Katie Patella. The Highlanders were 1-20 in 2016, the season before Patella arrived, and then in her first season West Morris went 4-12 in 2017 before going 8-14 last year and then making it over the .500 mark at 12-9 so far this season.

The Wolfpack has only two seniors on this year's team and competes hard in the NJAC-National Division against Mendham, Morristown, Montville, Parsippany Hills and Morris Hills.

"We're going to keep battling in every game we have," said Patella. "I believe the best is still in front of us."

Loveys shatters 36-year-old record

BOONTON _ For the entire 3,200 at the Morris County Track Championship, Julia Trethaway was right behind Randolph's Abby Loveys.

Trethaway, of West Morris, pushed Loveys, staying right with her. She didn't let her pull away.

At the conclusion of the race, which ended with a state-record-time of 10:10.24 for Loveys, Trethaway remained close, hugging the Rams star over and over again. Trethaway and Loveys did a did a double high five then clasped hands after crossing the finish line. They embraced, stepped back before hugging again.

"I'm hugging a state recordholder," Trethaway said to Loveys.

In Loveys opinion, the accomplishment, which broke a record set by Washington Township's Michelle Rowen in 1983, was shared. The record, she insisted, belonged to both of them.

"I knew I could get the record but I didn't do it on my own," Loveys said. "The best accomplishments happen with other people. I'm grateful for the opportunity. The conditions were perfect."

Loveys indicated that the post-race celebration was "a special moment."

"I couldn't have done it if Julia wasn't on my back," said Loveys, bound for Princeton, where she intends to be a pre-med major. "When I crossed the line, my face lit up. I knew I got it. I've been dreaming about this for a long time."

Randolph, ahead by just two points after the first day of the meet, had 110.5 points followed by West Morris with 75. Morris Catholic came in third with 41 points. It was an exceptional meet for Loveys and the Rams, who secured their third county title in a row. On the first day, Loveys became a four-time winner in the 1,600 and set a county record (4:50.12) in the process.

Also coming up big at Boonton High School on May 14 and 15 was Lovey's teammate, Meghan O'Malley, winner of gold medals in the 100-meter hurdles and in three jumps - high, long and triple. Karen Hull, a junior, boosted the Rams, too, by claiming gold in the 100 meters. 

"It's nice to win as a senior," Loveys said of the team championship. "This is really great. I've been running with these girls since I started. They're my sisters at this point."

Loveys ran the first part of the 3,200 in 5:06, one second off her goal. The last half of the race was in 5:04.

West Morris' Caroline Isemann topped the field in the 400-meter hurdles (1:03.78) and was part of the winning 4x400 team. Isemann was a field hockey player from sixth grade until sophomore year but then switched to track. She's certain she made the right decision.

"It was hard choosing. I struggled with it," Isemann said. "I knew that if I put in the work in track, it would pay off."

Her father, John, a hurdler at Rutgers, assisted her in transitioning to cross country and track. The duo spent nearly every day at the track, no matter what the weather.

"My dad told me that hard work beats talent," Isemann said. "We'd go to the track early every morning, in the rain and in the cold. It was to get ready for this. It was raining on the way here and I thought 'This is what I planned for. I'm ready to go.' I don't worry about the conditions."

Isemann said she was confident coming into the meet because she triumphed in the 400 hurdles at the sectional meet last winter. During cross country, she struggled with a back injury and only participated in four or five races.

"I went through a lot to get here so I feel like I really deserve it," she said.

Other winners were Butler's Rebecca Kneppel (200 meters), West Morris' Crystal Robinson (400 meters), Morris Catholic's Kate McAndrew (800 meters), Morristown's Kayla Morgan (shotput), Pequannock's Irene Park (pole vault), Pequannock's Alessandra D'Alessio (discus) and Morris Catholic's Danielle Mills (javelin). 

Eppel's HR powers Morris Knolls in emotional MCT final

ROXBURY _ Skye Eppel paced the dugout in the bottom of the seventh inning, pondering what would happen if Morris Knolls got back to the top of the order.

Eppel, a junior centerfielder and leadoff batter, took a few peeks at the action on the field and cheered at times as the Golden Eagles tried to recover from a one-run deficit. After Brielle Eike singled and Nicole Florey walked, Eppel, her stomach churning, was assured another at-bat. The pacing finally ceased when she was in the on-deck area.

The anxiety soon turned to euphoria when Eppel hammered a first pitch over the fence in center field - only the second home run of her career - to conclude an incredible rally and provide top-seeded Morris Knolls with an 11-9 victory over No. 6 Mount Olive for the 2019 Morris County Tournament title at Landing Park on Saturday, May 11.

"I was not expecting a home run," Eppel said of the dramatic two-out homer. "I don't hit many. All I wanted was a base hit. I just wanted to get a run in and tie it. I wanted to give us a chance to pull through. I was a nervous wreck. I obviously want to be in a situation like that and prove myself. Even in the field, I'm on edge. I'm proud of myself. It's something I always wanted to do. It's really cool."

Eppel did not watch the flight of the ball. She hustled to first base and, realizing the ball was out of the park, raised her arms up and continued to make her way around the bases. Of course, her teammates and coaches were waiting and swarmed her to celebrate their first MCT crown since 2014.

Keith Heinemann predicted Eppel would make an epic contribution in the MCT final on the bus ride to the game. He shared his thought with assistant coach Jolyn Veres, telling her Eppel, who has been slumping, would "come up huge."

"The way we won was unbelievable," Heinemann said. "It was an emotional rollercoaster. So many ups and downs... This is great."

In the top of the seventh, the Marauders, trailing 8-4, had a major comeback of their own, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring five runs to pull in front, 9-8. They got their fifth run on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the seventh. They got two more on Alyssa Segnello’s single up the middle for 8-7. Lindsey Walter poked a single to right field - the 100th hit of her career - to knock in a pair of runs and put Mount Olive in control, 9-8.

That, naturally, left Morris Knolls uneasy. Mount Olive, meanwhile, was elated to have new life and felt they were on the verge of the title. But, nothing was certain, as evidenced by the game's five lead changes.

Morris Knolls gained a 2-0 advantage on Jess Arminio’s home run in the first inning. Eppel, who led off with a base hit, scored on the one-out shot to left-center field.

Winning pitcher Kayla Turcios encountered control problems in the top of the fourth inning and Mount Olive capitalized by putting across three runs and led, 3-2. The Marauders had four hits, the big blow being the bases-loaded, three-run double by No. 8 batter Bella Salafia. Bri Segnello started the inning off with a double off a first pitch. Two walks ensued before Salafia doubled, also off a first pitch. The bases were filled again but Turcios quelled the threat with a strikeout.

Nicole Tahmoosh’s sacrifice fly extended Mount Olive's advantage to 4-2 an inning later.

Morris Knolls received an RBI single from Maddison Perna and a two-run double from Casey Heitmann in the fifth for 5-4. Perna picked up another RBI with a bunt in the sixth. Morris Knolls scored its seventh and eighth runs on wild pitches.

"It was a great win, especially because it was so back and forth," said Perna, the Golden Eagles' junior shortstop. "Mount Olive is great competition to play against. When we were up, it was exciting. We were jumping and cheering. Being down was a punch in the gut. Some heads went down. When Skye hit her walkoff to end it, feelings just rush through your body. The team really came together. It was a great win."

Eppel was pleased that Morris Knolls accomplished the second of three goals that were set this season. All that remains is a state crown.

"When we were up by four runs, all we were thinking was we needed three outs and we'd be county champs," Eppel said. "The whole thing was pretty intense and scary. At 2-0, some of us said 'We've got this.' So much happened after that. It was crazy. That's why winning is so great."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW*** 

Mt. Olive, Knolls advance to final

ROXBURY _ As a freshman pinch runner, Bri Segnello used her speed and daring to score from first base on Annalee Smith's two-out RBI double in the eighth inning and send Mount Olive to a win over Randolph in a 2018 Morris County Tournament semifinal.

On May 9, Segnello, now the starting center fielder, was once again a critical part of the game-winning run, belting a double to right-center field to snap a 2-2 deadlock in the bottom of the seventh inning and boost the sixth-seeded Marauders over seventh-seeded Parsippany, 3-2, in an MCT semi.

Morris Knolls, the top seed, defeated No. 12 Mendham 9-3 spurred by a six-run offensive burst in the fourth inning of the second semifinal at Landing Park. Kayla Turcios, the winning pitcher, had two RBIs, one off a solo home run, to key the big inning. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Turcios settled in, yielding four hits and striking out four.

"I was trying to hit the ball in the gap. Just hit it as hard as I could," said Segnello, whose two-base hit came off a 2-1 pitch. "I wanted to hit it somewhere, anywhere, so Kaitlin (Pettenger) could score."

Segnello, Mount Olive's No. 5 batter, obviously loves competing as evidenced by the fact that she also plays basketball and field hockey. That's why she was unfazed by being up with one out and the game on the line in the lower half of the seventh inning. Segnello was hit by a pitch her first time up then walked. She hit into a double play in the fifth inning. That, of course, didn't sit well with her.

"Bri can definitely hit," Marauders coach Bill Romano said. "That's a tough spot to be in. Parsippany wasn't going to quit. They weren't going to back down."

Kaitlin Pettenger got a base hit to open the seventh for Mount Olive, which fell to Hanover Park in last year's MCT title game. Pettenger raced to second when the next batter struck out. 

Mount Olive (13-5) scored the game’s first run in the second inning on Lindsey Walter's bunt. Segnello, who was hit in the foot by a pitch to start the inning, slid into home plate in a very close play.

Parsippany went ahead, 2-1, in the top of the fifth on Julia Vincent’s groundout and a miscue. Arianna Urban's double and Lindsey Depetris' single gave the Red Hawks two runners with no outs. A strikeout ensued before Vincent stepped into the batter's box.

Anna Callahan’s two-out RBI triple to right field knotted the score, 2-2, for the Marauders in the fifth inning. The extra base hit followed a 2-3-2 double play by Parsippany in which Red Hawks catcher Michelle Ebel fielded Segnello's bunt with runners on second and third. Ebel fired to first to Gabby Gennarelli and Gennarelli threw home to get Kaitlin Pettenger on a head-first slide.

"That was a great play by them," said Romano, referring to the double play. "We were just trying to get a run in there and it didn't work."

Segnello said she was "disappointed but tried to be positive."

Callahan, a junior righthander, turned in a strong effort in the circle, striking out eight and walking one in her MCT semifinals debut. Callahan allowed five hits, two to Depetris. She struck out the side in order in the first inning and retired 11 of the first 12 batters before walking Parsippany cleanup hitter Jenna Devens with two outs in the fourth inning.

For part of the season, Callahan was splitting the pitching duties with Walter but became the ace several weeks ago. Last spring, Callahan was the first baseman and third-string pitcher.

"I was a little nervous going in," Callahan said. "My warmup was good. I got on the hill and did my part. I contributed. Winning tonight was a blessing. It was the best thing ever."

Her game-tying triple surprised her. Callahan indicated that she "gets the bat on the ball and makes contact."

"My batting average isn't the greatest," Callahan said. "I'm not all over the bases. I try to move runners."

Morris Knolls (19-3) used back-to-back-to-back extra base hits to score three runs in the third in the second game. With one out, No. 9 batter Mary Griffin doubled to right center on a full-count offering. Skye Eppel doubled off a first pitch to drive in a run. Maddison Perna then tripled off the fence for the second run. A throwing error produced the run to give the Golden Eagles a 3-2 edge.

The next inning, Morris Knolls’ bats continued to boom and it added six runs. Eleven batters went to the plate, with Turcios slugging her solo homer and driving in a run with a single up the middle. Griffin knocked in the second of the six runs. Jess Arminio had an RBI. Errors by Mendham accounted for the other runs.

Griffin, typically the flex, has been hitting for the last few games and coming through.

"I really don't hit a lot," Griffin said, shaking her head. "I'm on top of the world. The double was great. It felt amazing."

Golden Eagles coach Keith Heinemann said he was "super happy" for Griffin, noting that "she got us started and created momentum for us."

Mendham used three hits, one an RBI base hit by Grace O'Mahoney, to gain a 2-0 edge in its first at-bat.

"With one out and the bases loaded, our pitcher may have been a little nervous," Heinemann said. "It may have gotten to her and she wasn't hitting her spots."

Griffin is thrilled to be in the MCT final as is Heinemann.

"We were down at first and we picked ourselves up," Griffin said. "Being in the final is amazing. I'm actually playing after being on the bench. I'm speechless."

"The MCT is always one of our goals," Heinemann said. "This is redemption for last year's MCT when we were knocked out in the preliminary round by West Morris. Getting back is great for us."

 

Mendham Perrin putts her way to title

FLANDERS _ Lindsay Perrin was in the midst of discussing some of the highlights of her round at the Morris County Girls Golf Championship when she suddenly stopped, smiled and revealed that she had attained a "first."

"My putting was pretty on today," Perrin said before adding, "I had no three putts. That's never happened before."

Perrin's touch on the greens, along with accurate shots off the tee, resulted in her taking the title at the MCGGC held on Flanders Valley Blue Course on Wednesday, May 1. It wasn't easy, though, as she prevailed in a two-hold playoff versus Morris Tech sophomore Rayne Yelinko.

The two girls finished the nine-hole round tied at 42. Perrin, third behind Villa Walsh's Mary Cate McGlone and Mendham teammate Caroline Fischbach last year, sealed her victory on No. 8, a par 3, with an 18-inch putt.

"When that putt dropped, I was very relieved," Perrin said. "It feels amazing. I didn't think that this would happen. There was good competition. A lot of great golfers."

Neither Perrin nor Yelinko had ever been in a playoff and were concerned with how they'd handle the pressure. Six days earlier in a match at Mount Tabor Country Club, Yelinko had a 45 and Perrin penciled in a score of 48.

"That was fun," Perrin said of the regular season match. "Rayne's short game and putting are excellent. She's tough to compete with. It was stressful."

Prior to the playoff, Yelinko's clubs had to be retrieved from the car. She had put them away thinking she was done for the day.

"I was a little nervous about the playoff," Yelinko admitted. "I was surprised. It was sudden but it was cool."

The duo replayed the par-4 first hole on the blue course. Perrin ripped a 190-yard drive while Yelinko wasn't far behind at 177 yards. Each girl wound up with a bogey.

From there, the action went to No. 8. Perrin's tee shot landed on the right side of the green on the 116-yard hole. Yelinko sent hers to the left side of the green about 40 feet from the flag. Perrin's first putt traveled in excess of 28 feet and settled 18 inches from the hole. She sank the putt for par. Yelinko had a bogey.

Perrin, a senior, has been second, third and fourth in this tournament over her high school career. She texted her parents shortly after the playoff concluded to tell them she had won. Coach Shira Brown, celebrating her birthday, was elated for Perrin as was her teammate, Madison Sussex, who watched the playoff.

"I'm so proud of Lindsay," Brown said. "She works so hard. To see the scores that are a result of that hard work... Lindsay definitely deserves this. I had so much confidence in her in the playoff. She's a great golfer."

Brown, however, noted that Perrin seemed unhappy at the completion of nine holes. Perrin received a ride back to the clubhouse and Brown, who had been carefully watching the leaderboard, was unsure if she should approach her.

"I debated whether I should talk to Lindsay or not," Brown said. "She had her gameface on. I finally went over and asked "How bad was it?' She told me she had a 42 and I informed her that she was tied for first."

Perrin, whose mother, Laura, helped influence her decision to take up the sport, parred holes 6, 7 and 8. On the other six holes, she recorded bogeys. One of the highlights of her round occurred on No. 8, a par 3. Perrin's drive sailed over the green but she got back on and dropped a three-foot putt from the rough.

Yelinko's highlight was a birdie on the fourth hole. The 16-year-old Netcong resident, also a skier, took up golf because her father, Brian, and grandfather, Frank, enjoy playing.

"It feels amazing to win," said Perrin. "I'm so happy."

McGlone, headed to Seton Hall University, where she will be a pre-med major, fired a 44. Although she was unable to repeat, McGlone said she was "lucky to be a part of this."

"I didn't have problems with anything in particular," she said. "My drives were OK. Getting close to the pin on greens was a little tough. It was chilly out there but I survived."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

  • Published in Golf
  • 0

Chatham went down fighting in Group III final

TOMS RIVER _ Defensively, Chatham gave every ounce of energy it could. And, if a couple more shots had gone down on the offensive end, the Cougars might well have come home with a state championship.

However, Mainland Regional was able to rally from a three-point deficit late in the third quarter, outscoring Chatham, 16-6, for the last 10 minutes of the game as the Mustangs took a 42-35 victory over the Cougars in the Group III girls basketball state championship game on Sunday, March 10 at the RWJ Barnabas Arena on the Toms River North High School campus.
 
Chatham, which had won five in a row, seven out of eight and 11 of 13 games coming in, took a 29-26 advantage on a 3-point field goal deep on the left wing from junior guard Maddie Hartnett 5:10 into the third period and a traditional three-point play from freshman forward Carly Frohnapfel with 2:19 left in the third quarter. But junior forward Kylee Watson made a free throw with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter to cut the Mustangs' deficit to two points, 29-27, entering the final period.
 
Sparked by from five points from Watson in the fourth quarter, Mainland outscored Chatham, 15-6, in the last eight minutes to slowly pull away from the game Cougars.
 
"I am very proud of my team. They left it all on the floor today," said Chatham 22nd-year coach Joe Gaba, who recorded his 400th career win a year ago January. "We played some outstanding defense and really making them search for a way to attack us successfully for a long while. It was an excellent effort by all our players."
 
For Chatham, it is the fourth time in the last 16 years that it has been a state Group runner-up. In 2004, the Cougars (23-7) lost to Haddonfield Memorial (Newark Shabazz won the Tournament of Champions that year), then Chatham fell to Rumson-Fair Haven in 2009 (St. John Vianney won TOC that year) and they were defeated by Shabazz in the 2010 final (Neptune won TOC that year), all in Group II.
 
Bumping up to Group III for the first time, Chatham was led by a strong effort from Hartnett, who scored a game-high 12 points and also contributed four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Also making an impact for the Cougars were senior guard Michaela Ford (six points, three assists, one steal), junior forward Shannon Donohoe (nine rebounds, three blocked shots), senior forward Olivia Mathern (four rebounds, two blocked shots), sophomore guard Tess Ford (eight points, one assist) and Frohnapfel came off the bench to grab four rebounds and score three points.
 
Chatham, which was bidding for its first-ever state group championship in girls basketball, won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference American Division title with a 9-1 mark, the ninth time in the last 10 years the Cougars have accomplished that feat. In the Morris County Tournament final, Chatham was edged by eventual first-time MCT champion Morristown-Beard on a last-second basket, 34-33, after the Cougars held a 33-32 lead going into the final six seconds at the County College of Morris on Friday, Feb. 22. Chatham was the 2018 MCT champion.
 
In the North 2, Group III final on Monday, March 4, top-seeded and host Chatham had defeated second-seeded Warren Hills, 48-40. Two days later, Chatham earned a 41-38 victory over Pascack Valley in the North Group III semifinals. In that game, Chatham led, 34-26, after three quarters, but was outscored 9-1 in the fourth quarter to send the game into the extra session, 35-35.
 
"We played really, really hard and we really held them down defensively," said Hartnett. "But, like in the fourth quarter of the Pascack Valley game, we went through kind of a dry spell late in the game today. We were able to overcome that against Pascack Valley, but we just came up a little short against a very good team today. Still, our effort was there all the way and we gave it our full-out best for the complete 32 minutes."
 
Mainland Regional (28-3), which earned its first-ever girls group state championship, has now won six in a row and 20 of its last 21 games. The Mustangs won the Cape Atlantic-League National Division with a 12-0 mark.
  
The teams went back and forth in the first half with the Atlantic County team taking a 13-12 lead after one quarter and a 22-20 edge at halftime. Freshman guard Camryn Dirkes had nine of her 11 points in the first half to help give the Mustangs that slight advantage after 16 minutes.
 
A three-point field goal by junior guard Madison Hafetz off a pass from senior guard Taylor Dalzell gave the Linwood school the lead for good at 30-29 with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter. Dalzell had 11 rebounds and six points for Mainland and Watson, a 6-foot-3 junior center, had 11 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots for the South Jersey team.
 
Chatham, as a team, shot 25.5 percent (12 for 47) from the floor and the Cougars' tough defense limited Mainland to 29.7 percent (11 for 37) from the floor. The Cougars were 3 for 16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range and Mainland was 6 for 13 (46.2 percent) from long distance. The shorter Cougars were outrebounded only 35-30 by the taller Mustangs, who now advance to the Tournament of Champions.
 
Sixth-seeded Mainland will play third-seeded Manchester Township, a 65-48 winner over Lincoln of Jersey City in the Group II state championship game Sunday, in a first-round TOC game at the RWJ Barnabas Arena on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The first game that night in Toms River will match fifith-seeded University of Newark against fourth-seeded St. Rose of Belmar at 5:30 p.m.
 
In the TOC semifinals on Thursday night on the Toms River North campus, the winner of the Mainland-Manchester game will take on second-seeded Saddle River Day at 5:30 p.m. and the winner of the St. Rose-University game will play top-seeded Franklin Township from Somerset County at 7 p.m.
 
The TOC championship game will be on Sunday, March 17 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway at 2 p.m. between the two girls semifinal winners. The boys championship game will be the nightcap of the TOC championship doubleheader and will be at 4 p.m. at Rutgers.
 
Chatham, off its excellent run in the states, returns three of five starters to next year's team and four of its top six players.
 
"We were in it all the way and in three of the four times in the final these last years, we have been right in it to the end (six-time TOC winner Shabazz being the exception in the 2010 Group 2 final)," Gaba said. "We feel we can compete with anyone and we really made Mainland work for everything they got today. It was an inspired performance by both teams, and I'm already looking ahead to next year and more great competitive games."
 
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

Crimson claim MCT title on DeMattheis buzzer beater

RANDOLPH _ Christina DeMattheis put the ball up and time stood still, seemingly for eternity.

Multiple thoughts raced through DeMattheis' head in the second or two it took the ball to travel 10 feet. Were the tears that formed in her eyes in anticipation of a miss or from the euphoria of netting the basket that would propel Morristown-Beard to its first Morris County Tournament title in any girls sport? 

Twenty minutes later, DeMattheis, understandably, still didn't know and it didn't matter. She was elated by the Crimson's 34-33 victory over top-seeded and defending champion Chatham in the 2019 MCT final on Friday, Feb. 22. And, best of all, it was her buzzer beater - off a pass from fellow senior and tournament most valuable player Bridget Monaghan - that ensured that she and her teammates would long be remembered.

"I got the ball and I didn't have time to take another second," said DeMattheis, a guard. "I didn't think it was going in. I put my hands to my face and stood there. I wasn't sure. I was shocked. I was crying. I didn't expect this."

No one did.

Everyone in the gym at County College of Morris, packed nearly to capacity, likely anticipated that Monaghan would go all the way after receiving the inbounds pass under Chatham's basket from Erin Martin with six seconds remaining and Chatham up, 33-32, after Tess Ford's free throw.

Monaghan (15 points) dribbled left then cut to the right at halfcourt. She neared the 3-point arc and, smothered by defenders, whipped the ball to the left to the wide-open DeMattheis, who did not expect to be in a high-pressure, no-time-to-think situation at crunch time of a monumental game. Monaghan said she had no choice because she "saw bodies" and the scoreboard was ticking down. The decision, obviously, was the right one, setting off a wild celebration between the players and the fans who spilled out of the stands.

"Our last inbounds play is exactly why we're the team that we are," Morristown-Beard coach Mike Sturgeon said. "Bridget had instructions to go the whole way and to win the title. She saw the defense and passed to Christina who has been clutch for us quite a few times this year. It was a great move. Bridget knew what to do."

DeMattheis may have been stunned to be called upon under stressful circumstances but her teammates had the utmost faith in her.

"That little jumper... I am so proud of Christina," Crimson junior Addisyn Ibrahim said. "There was so much pressure. That's so hard to do."

"Winning this is insane," said senior Gianna Rella, who missed the semifinals because of an emergency appendectomy. "Christina was great at the end. She was composed. She's hit some clutch shots and free throws during games but nothing like this."

Morristown-Beard (23-3) trailed 18-14 at halftime. Neither team shot particularly well in the third quarter and there were multiple turnovers. The Crimson tied the score, 21-21, on Olivia Omelczuk's layup with 1:31 left. The Cougars regained the lead, 24-21, on Maddie Hartnett's 3-pointer from the right corner with 55.8 remaining. Monaghan got the rebound after an errant shot by Chatham and raced down the court to drop in a layup at 4.2 seconds.

The closing period was tight as well. Erin Martin's free throws 1:32 into the fourth period put Morristown-Beard on top, 25-24. The Cougars went in front again, holding the edge for a little more than two minutes. The score was deadlocked two more times, the last at 30-30 when Monaghan had a layup with 3:30 left. From there, Ibrahim put in a hook shot at 2:18 to give Morristown-Beard a 32-30 advantage. Following a Chatham foul shot by Shannon Donohoe at 1:56 for 32-31, there were two turnovers.

At 26.4 seconds, Morristown-Beard missed the front end of a one and one. It appeared that Tess Ford's field goal off an inbounds pass at 5.3 seconds would be the gamewinner, allowing Chatham to become a repeat champion but, right after that basket, officials put 0.7 seconds back on the clock because it was running after a timeout was called, giving the Crimson six seconds to race into the record books.

"None of this has sunk in yet," Ibrahim said. "It was so close. This shows how much we love each other. I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else."

Rella, cleared to practice on Thursday, was delighted to sub in for DeMattheis twice, seeing a minute of action in the second quarter and another in the third when DeMattheis was whistled for her third foul. She held the trophy tightly and raised it often.

DeMattheis, an accomplished equestrian who has been riding since the age of 5, indicated that the decisive shot - the first of her career - and the MCT championship were "pretty special."

"We're going to get a banner. We're going to be remembered," she said. "We came in here ready to go and ready to win. We're a family. We love each other and play for each other."

Sturgeon thought of Bob Caprio, the former Morris Catholic girls assistant coach and long-time referee, who passed away three and a half weeks ago after the monumetal win. The two men often talked on the phone, with Caprio offering advice.

"Bob helped me a lot," Sturgeon said. "Over the years, he'd call me after games and tell me what I did right and what I did wrong. Not many people know what he did for me. I used to be a big yeller and screamer and he advised me to calm down. I miss him. Maybe he was looking down on us."

The all-tournament team consisted of Chatham's Michaela Ford and Hartnett (15 points in the final), Hanover Park's Kelsey Stites, Morristown's Tara O'Neill and Morristown-Beard's Olivia Omelczuk.

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***  

Mo-Beard, Chatham to face off in MCT final

RANDOLPH _ The text from Gianna Rella had an emotional impact on each and every one of Morristown-Beard’s players.

Rella, a senior, sent the encouraging words from a bed at Overlook Hospital, where she underwent an appendectomy five and a half hours before the Crimson’s first appearance in the Morris County Tournament semifinals on Friday, Feb. 15 at County College of Morris. Morristown-Beard's players read her text in their group chat right before taking to the floor for warmups.

You've got this. I'll be there for the final.

It was apparent that third-seeded Morristown-Beard, which will meet top-seeded and defending champion Chatham for the title on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at CCM, missed the exuberant senior guard as it struggled through the first half of its game versus No. 7 Morristown before ultimately gaining a 32-30 win.

Rella’s absence, however, wasn't all the Crimson (20-3) had to overcome to land a berth in the final. The Colonials applied effective high-pressure man-to-man defense and held a five-point halftime lead. Add in some nerves, the experience of playing before a larger-than-usual crowd in a cavernous and it's easy to understand why this wasn't a typical game.

“We were upset about Gianna, of course,” said senior guard Bridget Monaghan. “That text had all of us in tears. We were like ‘Do it for G.’ It really helped us. This was not one of our best games.”

At halftime, Rella appeared in the locker room via FaceTime and listened to the pep talk given by coach Mike Sturgeon. That, too, touched her teammates and made them determined to turn things around in the second half. Rella normally is a key component in the huddles, saying "Crimson on three" before everyone follows with "1-2-3 Crimson." Right before the players exited the room at the break, Rella did her part via cellphone and her teammates immediately responded with enthusiasm then took that energy out on to the court.

"Gianna is our lifeblood," said Sturgeon, who found out that Rella was hospitalized at 2 a.m. on Thursday night and never went back to sleep. "She doesn't light up the scoreboard but is as valuable as they come. She's a big part of our gameplan."

Morristown-Beard trailed, 18-13, but went on a nine-point run over the first 5:20 of the third quarter to gain a 22-18 advantage. Monaghan had six of 10 points in that burst, dropping in two layups and getting a basket off a putback to put the Crimson on top, 19-18. Erin Martin's 3-pointer capped the run.

The closing period was tense as the Colonials, outscored 11-2 in the third period, showed no quit. Olivia Omelczuk had her lone field goal, a 3-pointer, 11 seconds into the closing quarter to extend Morristown-Beard's lead to seven, 27-20. Morristown received a free throw from Elizabeth Mongey before Nicole Ferrara netted a 3-pointer to bring the Colonials within three, 27-24. Soon after, Ferrara sank a pair of foul shots which enabled Morristown to pull ahead, 28-27. Senior guard Christina DeMattheis converted a pass from Martin, boxed in by defenders, into a layup with 1:42 left, allowing the Crimson to regain the lead, 29-28.

Over the last 19 seconds, Morristown-Beard connected on 3-of-4 free throws for 32-28. Morristown's Aziah Adams then went in, uncontested, for a layup at 3.8 seconds.

"We were in a situation where nothing went right for 16 minutes," Sturgeon said. "We had to change things and run our offense. Morristown plays good hard-nosed defense. It's as good as it gets. Morristown wants 30 possessions in a game. We want 60. We had to adjust."

Rella watched the entire game, the last half of it live, thanks to Sarah Bregna, a former player. There also may have been another factor in the Crimson's victory, thus far the biggest in their school's girls basketball history. On the way to the semifinals, Morristown-Beard players sipped a Starbucks acai drink, Rella's favorite.

"I figured we could come back," Monaghan said. "We had it in us. This feels incredible. It's our first time at CCM. We always hoped to be here. We have high hopes for this season." 

Chatham, competing in the Final Four for the 12th time, earned the right to defend the MCT crown by defeating fourth-seeded Hanover Park, 42-38, behind 17 points by Maddie Hartnett. 

This semifinal was a nailbiter as well, with the Cougars (18-5) in control at halftime, 23-21. The score was knotted on three occasions in the second half. One minute and 27 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Hornets' Brielle Junda knocked down a 3-pointer for 32-32. Two free throws by Kelsey Stites ensued and Hanover Park led, 34-32. A three-point play by Hartnett put Chatham in command to stay, 35-34. 

Still, the game was far from over. Olivia Mathern, a senior forward, had her second 3-pointer with 4:50 remaining to keep the Cougars ahead, 38-34. The Hornets fought back and, with 1:55 remaining, Stites (15 points) made a layup to make it a one-point game, 39-38. Ultimately, Chatham netted 3-of-4 free throws over the last 11.9 to seal the win.

Chatham coach Joe Gaba deemed Mathern's 3-pointer to be one of the plays of the game.

"I try," said Mathern of her long-range shooting ability. "We all shoot a lot of 3s. We got a lot of opportunities because Maddie and Tess (Ford) drive a lot."

Mathern acknowledged that "there was a lot going on at the end." She said that the Cougars were able to move on in the tournament by "talking to each other" and "staying calm."

Gaba attributed his squad's play in the semifinals and this season to their defense, noting "We'll defend the floor until the last horn goes off" and to "their love for each other."

"They're close on and off the court," Gaba said. "They do everything together. You want to go into battle with people you trust completely."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

Morristown stuns No. 2 Crusaders

DENVILLE _ The team. The team. The team.

Those six words are entrenched in the minds of the players on the Morristown girls basketball team. Each time the Colonials exit their home locker room, whether for practice or a game, they jump and tap a sign that bears those repetitive words.

"We think about it a lot," said senior guard Nicole Ferrara, whose 3-pointers, along with Kolby Lynch's spirited play, helped Morristown rally in the third period en route to a 49-42 upset of second-seeded Morris Catholic in a Morris County Tournament quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 9.

"We're playing for the seniors, for each other. The seniors may not have another chance to do this."

That's why the Colonials, trailing 24-20 at halftime, turned it up in the third period. Ferrara, bound for Ohio State University on a lacrosse scholarship, nailed a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter to put seventh-seeded Morristown in front to stay, 32-30.

Ferarra's trey commenced a nine-point run, one that extended into the fourth quarter. Lynch, out all of last season with a torn ACL, had nine of her 12 points in the third period, including a critical layup following a rebound with 24.7 seconds left. Ferrara ended the third stanza in dramatic style, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The ball bounced high off the rim before trickling through the net.

"That was a lucky one," said Ferrara of the 3-pointer. "I got a great pass from Katie McGuinness and shot. I think that gave us more momentum. We were super hyped. It was like 'Let's do this.'"

For Lynch, a junior, being on the court was much better than sitting on the Colonials' bench.

"This is my first time here, my first year on varsity," Lynch said. "It's so much different being in the game than being on the sideline. I fed off all of the energy. I went off of it and played for the team."

Colonials coach Jim Pisciotto was elated about the comeback and the victory it produced as well as for Lynch, new to the spacious gym at Morris Knolls High School.

"We saw an opportunity and what could happen," Pisciotto said. "We got the ball to Kolby. She can make 3s. She can drive. Kolby didn't get to play last year. Now, she's picking and popping."

According to Pisciotto, Morristown, which adjusted to the graduation of four-year starter Elizabeth Strambi by using Tara O'Neill, Morgan O'Neill and Grace Godfey at point guard, fell behind because it was rushing shots, not playing team basketball, not moving the ball well and not boxing out.

"They were killing us on second shots," he said.

Composure, said Lynch, was key for the Colonials. 

"I was more excited than nervous," Lynch said. "This was a great environment to play in. Coming out of the locker room at halftime, we had to focus on our shots, keep the lead and stay calm."

The game was tied three times in the first quarter then Morris Catholic began pulling away. After O'Neill made it 12-12 with a baseline move with 1:06 left in the period, Sanai Newell had a three-point play. Newell scored after three misses. She then took a pass from Mimi Rubino and scored for 17-12 with 0.4 seconds remaining. The Crusaders further distanced themselves by getting the first basket of the second quarter. It was a low-scoring second period for both teams but Morris Catholic retained the edge.

The third quarter, at least the last 1:30 of it, belonged to Morristown, which has been to the last four MCT finals. It wasn't over yet, though, as the Crusaders fought back. They came within three, 42-39, with 2:09 left in the game. The Colonials (12-7) then went to the free throw line five times, converting 6-of-8 attempts to go up, 48-39.

"Don't look at our record," Ferrara said. "We prepared so much for this. We've improved from the first game until now. It's crazy how much we've grown."

***CHECK BACK FOR PHOTO GALLERY***

Subscribe to this RSS feed