Niajah Morgan and Cardinal Spellman needed to regroup and reset after losing a lead and a key contest to Moore Catholic with first place on the line.
The senior guard was far from herself against the Mavericks. Morgan took a 5 a.m. flight back to New York after attending her brother’s Navel Graduation in Chicago and raced back on little sleep to play at 2 p.m. She scored just five points and turnover contributed to Spellman letting a 11-point lead slip away.
“I feel like it effected us a lot that I was off,” Morgan said. “I missed a lot of shots.”
She more than made up for it the next day against St. Joseph Hill. Morgan scored 15 points and led a key second-quarter stretch to help Spellman to a 50-39 home victory in CHSAA Staten Island/Bronx girls basketball last Saturday. She scored six straight points in the second quarter to help the Pilots take a 30-23 lead into the break and was a force as usual on defense.
“She did play well yesterday, just not how she usually does,” senior forward Kameron Stone said. “She bounced back today. She did a lot for us.”
Morgan’s play was big boost, but it would have meant nothing without Stone continuing to come into her own. She posted her third straight double-double by following a 15 point, 15 rebound performance against Moore with 16 points and 11 boards in the win over Hill. Pilots coach Jane Morris said a midseason scoring slump from point guard Jade Vegas (12 points) pushed Stone into a bigger role.
“Without her scoring Kameron has just stepped it up and picked up the slack,” the coach said. “She’s been doing that game after game.”
Stone was critical to Spellman (17-3) holding off multiple Hill rallies as her rebounding and ability to contest shots sparked the Pilots offense. The Hilltoppers got with in 39-32 after three quarters on a layup by Alyssa Barry (12 points). Spellman immediately answered with a quick 8-2 run, capped by a Vega three to start the fourth and never looked back.
The victory keeps the Pilots with in striking distance of the division title. They will need to win out and hope for Moore to lose another league game. Spellman still has its sights set on defending its Archdiocesan title, but knows it will be at its best to do so.
“We are still confident,” Morgan said. “We just ååhave to continue to play better.”