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Morgan Girls’ Hoops Reaches State Quarters with Two Routs
Senior Jen Dawson tallied 22 and 23 points, respectively, in Morgan girls’ basketball’s first two Class M State Tournament wins last week over Platt Tech and Plainfield to help the Huskies reach the quarterfinal round. (Kelley Fryer/The Harbor News)
Morgan girls’ hoops has already redeemed itself for last year’s Shoreline Conference runner-up finish with a league crown this time around. Now, the Huskies are on the fast track to returning to Mohegan Sun Arena and vying for redemption on their state final loss a year ago by bringing home a Class M championship.
The Huskies opened the Class M State Tournament as the top seed and crushed No. 32 Platt Tech 87-24 at home on March 4 for the first round before disposing of 17th-seeded Plainfield 64-45 as a host in the second round on March 6 to advance to the quarterfinals. Morgan now sits two victories away from returning to the Class M final and three from the program’s first state crown in 15 years.
“This team is right up there with some of the other great teams I’ve coached here,” said Head Coach Joe Grippo, whose team improved to 24-0. “We haven’t had a run like this where we were undefeated this late in the season. For them to be right in the conversation of some of the best Morgan teams, it’s more than I could’ve hoped for at the start of the year. I haven’t had to do much yelling this year because these girls come to practice, work hard, and are motivated. It’s been a lot of fun this year.”
Morgan next awaits a quarterfinal round matchup on Tuesday, March 10 at home with No. 9 East Hampton (18-6), a squad that fell to the Huskies two times during the campaign—including a 39-28 defeat in the Shoreline Conference Tournament semifinal on Feb. 24.
“There are no cupcakes in Class M. Everyone has a legitimate belief that they can get to the state final,” said Grippo. “We see East Hampton again, who we’ve played two times, so there’s no secrets between us and it’s the same case with [potentially] playing Cromwell again [in the semis], who we’ve played three times this year.”
Hosting Platt Tech (8-13), the Huskies had four scorers reach double figures in senior Jen Dawson matching her point total from the Shoreline final victory over Cromwell five days earlier with 22 points while joining her were fellow senior Tori Hopkins (18 points), junior Sami Ashton (16), and freshman Courtney Viglione (10). Dawson added eight rebounds, three assists, and six steals; plus Ashton dished out three assists with nine steals. Junior Josie Sullivan also crashed the boards for 11 rebounds.
In Morgan’s state tourney opener, it was a no contest from the opening tip as the Huskies led 36-8 after the first quarter before going up by a whopping 47 points at halftime. The Huskies only tallied 29 total points following intermission, yet the still limited the visitors to 13 among the final two periods.
“With Platt, it’s difficult for a tech school to be playing in Class M, but we just had too much talent for them to compete with,” said Grippo. “We won that game after the first quarter, but Platt kept competing and playing hard until the end.”
Taking on Plainfield, the Huskies shot 55 percent from the field and 33 percent beyond the three-point arc. Dawson kept up her streak of scoring 20-plus points by tallying 23 with 10 boards to complete the double-double evening. Elsewhere, Sammi Ashton added 13 points, four rebounds, eight assists, and a steal while Hopkins dropped in 10 points, six boards, six assists, and a steal. Sullivan again worked the backboard for 14 rebounds.
For the first quarter, the home side doubled up the visitors to lead 24-12 following the period. Morgan then again outscored Plainfield (13-9) by a dozen for the second by an 18-6 margin to go ahead 42-18 at halftime. A much tighter third frame (12-9 in the Huskies’ favor) still put Morgan in command by 27 before the Huskies punched their ticket to the round-of-8 by tacking on 10 more points in the fourth despite allowing 18 for the final stanza.
“We have a lot of respect for Plainfield as they’ve played both Cromwell and New London tough. Yet I think we played probably are most complete first half of basketball all year in this game,” said Grippo. “Everyone is contributing really well. Our quick starts are predicated on our defense as we do a lot of press, plus our half-court, man-to-man is pretty darn solid. Our defense creates problems for the other team and gets us out on the open floor. We have guys that can get to the rim and shoot, so it’s pick your poison.”
Now out of the first week of tourney action, Morgan faces a daunting road ahead in its quest to return to the state final. That includes a potential semfinal matchup against Shoreline rival and conference runner-up Cromwell in the semifinals on Monday, March 16 and a possible title showdown versus defending state champion New London.
“I think we are in good shape in terms of being prepared for the road ahead,” said Grippo. “Now, we just need to go out, execute, and, hopefully, end the year with three more wins.”