RANDOLPH, NJ - It was a moment four years in the making for Emma Wax and her teammates.
Since first walking onto the court for Montville's girls basketball team as a freshman, Wax has always dreamed of the opportunity to celebrate a county championship with her teammates, something that no Montville team had done before.
With the game well in hand for Montville in the last seconds of Friday night's Morris County Tournament final, Wax sunk one final free throw. Then, as Chatham dribbled out the final four seconds of the game, it was time for her and her teammates to celebrate Montville's first county title.
The top seeded Mustangs pulled away late on Friday night en route to a 40-27 win over second seed Chatham at the County College of Morris, the latest chapter in the story of a season that won't soon be forgotten.
Montville's record now stands at a perfect 25-0- and after 46 years of the girls basketball program- now has a county title to show for it.
“It’s really special. I wanted to be in this position since my freshman year," Wax said. "We fell short every year until now, and we finally got here. It’s amazing to share this with everybody, everybody that came out from our community. It’s really special- especially to get Coach Lynn his first county title- it’s awesome.”
It was an all-around group effort from Montville in this one, with several players contributing. Wax- who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player- finished with a team-high of 12 points, after being held off the board in the first half by a strong Chatham defense which gave Montville all it could handle.
Even with Wax not on the score sheet, Montville took a 16-14 lead into halftime. But the senior led the charge in the third quarter, as she scored five of Montville's 10 points during a 10-2 run, including a three-pointer. Even more impressively, she managed to stay aggressive and was effective in the fourth quarter, despite playing with four fouls and being just one misstep away from fouling out of the game.
“We had a little chat at halftime, a little heart-to-heart," Montville coach Derek Lynn said. "We talked about how her shots were going to come, they were going to start falling. I told her to keep being aggressive, and you saw her get to the rim and to the free throw line and make some big shots, and a big three point shot there as well.
"She’s such a tough kid. A first half like that with some other players, it might kind of rattle them. But she kind of refocused at halftime there and came out. She wanted so badly to win this game for Montville, and I’m really proud of her.”
Montville received a balanced performance across the board, with freshman Carey Werheim tallying eight points and six rebounds. Dani Vito added seven points, while Bella Vito- who was named to the Morris County All-Tournament team- netted six points to go along with four rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
“It was awesome. It was an absolute team effort," Wax said. "They really shut me out in the first half, and we had other girls step up and hit big shots. Our freshman, Carey Werheim, had her best game of the year- today- in the biggest game of the year. Which was awesome. Grace (Kowalski) stepped up big, Dani (Vito) hit some big shots, Bella (Vito) hit some big shots. Everybody stepped up defensively, and we held them to 27 points. We obviously did our job on the defensive end, and that’s how we won the game. Just stopped them on defense and made big plays on offense.”
Montville went into the 2019-20 season with three main goals- to win the conference, county, and state titles. It has accomplished two of those goals already, with the NJAC-American and Morris County Tournament titles now in tow. It will begin its chase for the team's first-ever sectional title at home on Monday, when it takes on Paramus in the North 1, Group 3 first round at 5 p.m.
“We wanted to win the conference, the county, and the state, which are pretty high goals, I think," Lynn said. "Especially for a team that hasn’t ever done that before from Montville. To get number two down now, it just feels great.”
The team received a heros' welcome by being escorted back to the high school by Montville's police and fire departments and first aid squad. The cheers of the crowd were heard as the team approached the school and Mayor Frank Cooney high-fived the players as they departed the bus.
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