Niajah Morgan played the way Cardinal Spellman needs her to if they are going to be successful the rest of the season, it just wasn’t good enough for one afternoon.
The Pilots junior scored a career-high 28 points only to see the Spellman girl’s basketball team fall 70-64 at home to rival Moore Catholic last Saturday. The lost pulls Spellman and Moore, the Archdioceses’ top two teams, even at a win apiece this season and kept head coach Jane Morris from reaching career win No. 700.
“We were worried about winning the game,” Morgan said. “It’s not the end of the season, she can get her 700th win the next game of the game after. The most important part for us was winning the game period.”
She did everything she could with Michigan-bound wing Maria Backman held to 12 points by a box-and-1 defense. Danelle Gibson chipped in 11 points. The Pilots were also without junior point guard Jade Vega, a double-digit scorer, who missed her second game with a broken arm. Morgan has been averaging 12 points per game coming in.
“Her point production definitely has to come up,” Morris said. “I usually have four kids in double figures…I need another kid to step into the role of being more of a high scorer.”
Morgan scored 18 of her points in the second half. She hit a 3-pointer to put Spellman up 53-51 with 5:50 left in the game. Her fall away jumper in the post gave the Pilots a 61-57 advantage with 3:37 remaining in the contest.
Cardinal Spellman (17-2) couldn’t hold on after that. Pace-bound guard Gabriella Rubin (22 points), who scored her 1,000 career point in the game, connected on a second straight 3-pointer and freshman guard Rayshel Brown (19 points) scored six points during a 9-0 run that sealed the victory for the Mavericks (11-8).
“We have to stay on her,” Morgan said of Rubin. “We tried to switch and it didn’t work.”
The Pilots created opportunities to get back into the game, but a turnover and missed layups after two straight steals kept that from happening.
“Turnovers and missed layups,” Morris said. “We had two golden opportunities.”
Spellman caught a break when Mavericks center Dina Motrechuk missed most of the first half with two fouls. They couldn’t capitalize as Moore again finished strong and led 29-28 at the half.
The Pilots will likely get a rematch in the CHSAA Archdiocesan final, but for now this loss stung.
“It was pretty disappointing, but we’ll get them next time,” Morgan said.