It’s likely a great girls basketball sectional semifinal will be most remembered for a third quarter when very little happened.
The final result was an expected by most – Jac-Cen-Del advanced to the sectional championship game by defeating Morristown. What wasn’t expected by many was how close the game was.
Morristown lost on December 11 to the Eagles, 58-28. However, the night before that Morristown had to play at Waldron, a 62-30 loss. And it wasn’t the healthiest of rosters for a team that has dealt with health issues all season.
Monday’s semifinal felt different from the start. But then came the third quarter.
Jac-Cen-Del and Morristown traded a possession each in the beginning of the third quarter of the Sectional 60 semifinal. The Eagles posted a basket by Jalee Rider and Morristown recorded one of two free throws by freshman Nevaeh Sanders.
Then, with Jac-Cen-Del up 32-27, the Eagles held the ball for one shot. Albeit, the countdown started with just over seven minutes left in the period. While Jac-Cen-Del elected to hold the ball the Morristown Yellow Jackets defense chose to allow it. The Jackets held back in their 2 – 3 zone and the two sides stood their ground while the fan bases noted the rising tension in the gym by shouting across the gym at each other.
Then, with seconds to go in the period, JCD senior Aundrea Cullen buried a dagger from two steps beyond the 3-point arc to give the Eagles an eight-point lead, 35-27.
Eagles head coach Scott Smith.
Cullen’s buzzer beater provided a cushion on the scoreboard and momentum. Neither lasted long.
Morristown head coach Rachel Kleine said the stall tactic allowed her team to rest at a time when it was most needed. That was especially true for senior guard Gracie Laster. Laster actually sat down on the floor waiting out much of the third quarter.
A rested Morristown defenseattacked with intensity and caused four consecutive turnovers and pulled to within two in the early minutes of the fourth period. But the Jackets would get no closer as Cullen connected on another three-pointer and Jac-Cen-Del made 6-of-7 free throws to advance to the championship game.
Cullen tied teammate Reagan Hughes for team scoring honors with 11. Senior point guard Annabelle Williams added 10.
Sanders topped all scorers with 17 for Morristown. She scored 12 of those in the first period as the Jackets built a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
Jac-Cen-Del countered with a 19-11 second quarter to take a four-point lead into the half.
#5 Jac-Cen-Del (19-6) will play top-ranked Waldron in Tuesday’s sectional championship. It’s the fifth postseason meeting in six seasons between the programs. The Eagles have won the previous four during that stretch including a five-overtime classic in the 2019 championship game.
Waldron defeated Jac-Cen-Del in a game played on the Mohawks home court on December 7, 51-48.
Waldron (21-1) downed Rising Sun in Monday’s other semifinal, 53-11. The Mohawks had four players score nine points – Hadlie Ross, Hallie Ross, Megan Bogemann and Mackenzie Shaw.
The Mohawks held the Shiners to just 15 points in their regular season meeting.