CALDWELL- Immaculate Conception’s Camille Wiley made it clear that the Lions have been looking forward to a state tournament rematch with Morris Catholic for some time now.
“We’ve been waiting all year for this opportunity to meet them again, and now it’s here,” said IC’s junior guard who scored a game-high 20 points to help the second-seeded Lions (25-4) win their 13th straight game with Thursday night’s 64-49 win over third-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s (24-5) in Mount St. Dominic’s Codey gymnasium. “They have good ball handlers and we’re going to have to step it up on defense to get those necessary stops.
“We’re very excited and it should be a great match-up!”
No. 3 ranked IC and top-ranked Morris Catholic (25-1) will tangle in a much-anticipated Non-Public, North B state sectional final, 7 p.m., Monday, at Paterson Kennedy High School.
The Crusaders, who blew past Saddle River Day, 84-66, in their North B semifinal contest on Thursday night, are 77-6 in the past three seasons and are defending Non-Public B state champs, having defeated IC in the state tourney in each of the past two seasons, 55-49, in the North B final last year, and 65-59, in the semifinals in 2022.
This is a much deeper IC team than the Lions have had in the past, and the offense is clicking better than ever at the right time as evidenced in Thursday’s win over a good Gill team as IC sank eight 3-pointers, including six in the first quarter when it opened up a 20-12 lead, and showed proficient ball movement with the excellent point guard play of sophomore playmaker Lena Most (7 points, 8 assists).
“We work on ball movement in practice all the time and everything we do in practice we try to put to good use in games,” said Most who is quickly emerging as one of the better young lead guards in the state. “We all made good passes and we also shot well which we’ll have to do again on Monday night, that’s for sure!”
The Lions may have the edge inside vs. Morris Catholic with the athletic pair of 6-foot junior Nila Giraud (13 points, 5 rebounds vs. Gill) and 6-1 senior Brenae Jones (13 points, 7 rebounds), while the Crusaders also have strcngth up front but ultimately click behind their very talented backcourt of junior twins Mia and Mya Pauldo.
“We have a lot of respect for those girls and they have a great team so I believe it’s going to come down to us defending at a high level,” said Most. “We’ve been anticipating all year about possibly playing Morris Catholic again and everything we’ve done as a team all season long has led up to this moment.
“We’re really excited to play them and I think it’s going to be a good result for us this time!”
While IC can get multiple players contributing in a big way offensively it can be as difficult a team to defeat as any in the state.
Against Gill it was Wiley who stepped up big-time as she sank two of her three 3-pointers in the first quarter among the six early tri-fectas converted by the Lions.