RANDOLPH, NJ - The Montville girls basketball team is one win away from program history.
The top seed Mustangs took down fourth seed Villa Walsh, 48-34 in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament on Friday night at the County College of Morris. The win advanced Montville to the Morris County final for the first time since the 1976-77 season.
It will take on second seed Chatham in the final on Friday at 7 p.m. at the County College of Morris, which is an opportunity for Montville to win the county title for the first time ever.
“It’s amazing. Especially for it to be my senior year," Emma Wax said. "My freshman, sophomore and junior year, we lost in the quarterfinals every year. We’re obviously excited to make it to this game. We weren’t satisfied and obviously we’re not happy yet. Our goal is to win the whole thing. We have a really great opponent in Chatham and it’s extremely hard to beat a team three times in one season. We’re looking forward to it, and we’re going to bring our best game.”
Montville's win on Friday night in the semifinals was oddly similar to its performance against Morristown in the quarterfinals last Saturday. It had its share of struggles in the first half, as it could not get into a rhythm offensively and had some issues defensively, and trailed at halftime, like it did a week ago. But just like last Saturday, the Mustangs came alive in the third quarter as Emma Wax took over during a 16-5 third quarter run, hitting several big shots to give her team control of the game.
Wax finished with a game-high of 22 points.
“Really our defense in the first half just was not good at all," Wax said. "We weren’t digging as deep as we should have. We weren’t getting rebounds, we weren’t keeping them in front of us. So we really just emphasized at halftime to dig deep and want it more. As long as we want it more we’re going to get the win. We went on that run because we played great defense, we got rebounds, we got run-outs. That’s the way that we play. We play with a fast pace and I think that helped propel us ahead.”
Montville coach Derek Lynn added, “We all started slow, and (Emma) started slow. We talked at halftime about just playing our game and getting the pace the way we wanted to. Emma made some tough shots in the third quarter. She started getting to the rim a little bit more, following her shots, and getting rebounds as well.”
Freshmen Grace Kowalski and Carey Werheim each netted eight points for Montville.
Montville still remains perfect with a 22-0 record at this point, having already claimed the NJAC-American Division title, which was the first goal for this team. Now it will get its shot at a county title on Friday night, but it will come against a tough Chatham opponent that Montville has already played twice this season.
While it picked up wins of 38-33 and 41-35 in the previous two match-ups, Chatham is the second seed in this tournament for a reason, and the Mustangs expect perhaps its biggest challenge of the year on Friday night.
“We find a way. We know that every team is out for blood," Wax said. "Every team is going to give us their best shot. We’re the favorite to win in every game that we play. Other teams are just giving us their all, but we just dig deep. We started slow which is not great these last couple of games, but we just keep sticking to our roots, keep sticking to our game plan and find a way to hit shots and find a way to win.”
Lynn added, “Our goal is to win the county tournament. Getting there is the next step. We still have work to do, obviously. We have to start the game off a little better than we’ve done the last couple of games, especially in the county tournament. We’ll work on a lot of things here, and we’ll prepare for Chatham.”
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