Morris Knolls, NJ- Randolph made 11 free throws down the stretch in a 42-37 win over Chatham in the quarterfinals of the Morris County Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
“Free throws can win ball games,” Randolph head coach Kristin Torres said. “If we don’t make those free throws who knows what kind of situation we would’ve been in.”
The game was tightly contested right from the start, as Randolph saw itself up 10-7 after the first quarter. Morgan Rachmiel and Aliyah Huland-El both paced the Rams with four points while Hailey Myler scored four points for the Cougars. Neither team could find their shooting stroke early, especially from beyond the arc with both teams going 1-for-4.
The second quarter proved to be just as tight with both teams combining for 15 total points in the quarter. Kendall Davies sparked the Cougars with five points in the quarter while Huland-El paced the Rams with four points.
Part of the reason for the low scoring game was the 2-2-1 full court press that the Cougars used right from the start of the game. Both teams were careless with the ball with numerous turnovers occurring.
The second half started with Chatham going on a 10-2 scoring run, despite going 1-for-9 from behind the arc during the span.
Despite the poor shooting performance from deep, Chatham head coach Joe Gaba wasn’t discouraged with the shot selection.
He said: “When you don’t make the three it comes back to bite you and we average about eight threes a game so it isn’t out of character for us.”
Natalie Washuta, Grace Conroy, Davies, and Myler all chipped in to help Chatham build a 26-19 lead.
Randolph responded with a 7-0 run as Huland-El scored six points including two free throws to halt the Cougar’s momentum.
Up 27-25 heading into the fourth quarter, Torres and her coaching staff decided to change course and employ a full court press.
“We went back and forth on whether to press from the start but we thought we needed to do it at some point,” she said. “We play five or six girls so it is hard to press for an entire game, but we knew we had to add it at some point in time.”
The move proved to be vital for the Rams as they used the Cougar’s carelessness of the ball to go on a 12-1 run.
“We didn’t react well to the full court pressure even though we knew it was coming,” Gaba said. “It has been an Achilles heel for us all season and when we finally settled down, the damage had already been done.”
After Randolph seized the lead, the game looked to be out of reach for the Cougars with a little over a minute left. However, Washuta and Davies hit two big 3-pointers to cut the Randolph lead to one. The Cougars got no closer as Huland-El made six of her final eight free throws to help the Rams advance to the semifinal round of the Morris County Tournament. “
Before every practice .we all shoot 20-40 free throws because it is so important especially at the end of the game. If you can’t hit them at the end of the game you probably won’t win,” Huland-El said.
Huland-El led all scorers with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks, while Rachmiel had eight points and Carly Sasaki chipped in with seven. Davies led the Cougars with 11 points while Myler had eight points on the night.
Randolph improves to 16-2 on the season while Chatham drops to 12-8.