Ashley Cox was completely dominating the game in the fourth quarter. She had just put her Morrisania Educational Campus girls’ basketball team ahead against Morris with a pretty three-point play. On the next possession, Cox drove the lane and found herself open again.
But she didn’t take a shot – she passed instead. Cox hit freshman Ogechukwu Uwanaku under the basket with a pinpoint feed and the ninth grader laid it in to put Morrisania up six points.
Why would Cox, one of the best players in PSAL Class B, pass up the open shot? Because for Morrisania, it’s all about team.
“I’ve been trying to give it to them,” Cox, a junior, said of her teammates. “[So] they get better as the games go on.”
Morrisania went on to beat Morris, 42-39, on Monday in a PSAL Bronx B crossover match-up. The team is now 5-0 and in first place in Bronx B West in only its first varsity season. Cox is averaging 31 points per game and scored 26 against Morris.
Last year, coach Phil Farrelly’s squad won only three games as a developmental team. That’s because Morrisania’s focus then was on Cox. Farrelly has changed the strategy to a more team-oriented one and the results have been brilliant.
“This is the only team sport I’ve seen where people want to play 1-on-1,” Farrelly said. “It’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
That’s not how Morrisania plays. Cox is about 5-feet-10 and long with a good handle and a ton of speed. She also has a nice touch on her jump shot and is smooth around the basket. There are not many players in the ‘B’ league like her. She said this summer she plans to play with the elite Exodus AAU team after playing previously with Millbank.
Cox also said her father wanted her to go to Murry Bergtraum or Manhattan Center, a school with a powerhouse girls’ hoops program, but she went to Morrisania for its superior academics.
“Anybody would love to have three Ashleys on their team,” Farrelly said.
But Morrisania doesn’t and Farrelly says “she could only be as good as the other four players around her.” That’s why he’s been preaching teamwork. Most of the other girls have little to no previous basketball experience, so the other pillar of his coaching philosophy is conditioning.
“If you’re in good shape, you can beat anyone,” he said.
So, Morrisania pressures teams into making mistakes and then runs the floor for easy, fast-break baskets. It’s a sound way of thinking – provided the players buy into things. Cox said last year there was a communication barrier among her teammates. Now, they do everything as a team, including leaving the gym together after games, like they did Monday night against Morris.
“We talk to each other; we listen to each other,” Cox said. “Last year, we didn’t.”
The future is bright for Morrisania. There are only three seniors on the roster and maybe down the road the team could compete for a PSAL Class B city championship. Or maybe the future is now for the first-year varsity program.
“Maybe this is the year,” Cox said. “It looks good this year.”