MORRISTOWN, NJ – A back-and-forth North 1, Group 4 quarterfinals girls’ varsity basketball game came down to the final shot as the Morristown Colonials put the ball in their leading scorer’s hands to take it, but the West Orange Mountaineers defense forced a tough look as the ball rimmed out as the final buzzer sounded off. The Mountaineers pulled off the upset, defeating Morristown 46-45 in a decisive road win knocking off the defending state champions.
From start to finish, the game was close as both teams traded the lead throughout the game. The largest lead that Morristown held was five points and for West Orange, it was six points.
“I’m really proud of our team – we were down six points late in the game and we battled back,” Morristown coach Jim Pisciotto said after the game. “We fought through a lot of adversity (in the final minutes) to just have that last shot at winning out there.”
Elizabeth Strambi paced the Morristown offense with 20 points – including the team’s first seven of the game. The senior guard also had seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Sophomore Tara O’Neill was the only other player with double digit figures in points as she had 12 on the evening. Senior Kate Kolb added eight points and was a dominating force in the paint at times.
One of the biggest storylines of the game, however, was the disparity in fouls and free throw attempts. Morristown had more than double the number of fouls called against them and subsequently, West Orange held a 20-3 free throw made advantage in the game.
“It just seemed to be the way the game was going,” explained Pisciotto, address the foul differential. “At the end of the day, we should have done better at executing.”
While the outcome of the game was disappointing for Morristown, Pisciotto said that he was proud of his kids.
“I thought our kids showed a lot of character this year under a lot of stress living up to last year of being Number 1,” Pisciotto suggested. “It’s not as easy as you think. We were so successful last year that we were a victim of our success this year.”
For West Orange, Mya Bembry registered a double-double, leading the team in scoring (16 points) and had 12 rebounds. Nahtail Simpson had 13 points and five steals. And although she didn’t score any points, Cassidy Ferrell dominated the paint, recording 15 rebounds.
While Morristown has been eliminated from the tournament, West Orange moves on and will take on the No. 5 Ridgewood Maroons, who defeated No. 4 Morris Knolls 35-32 this round. All four of the top-seeded teams lost in the quarterfinals.