WALLINGFORD >> There’s going to be a new Class M girls basketball champion this year.
Morgan earned a trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena with a defense-fueled 50-39 semifinal-round victory over defending champion Cromwell on Saturday night at Sheehan High.
The No. 5 seed Huskies (22-5), who avenged a last-second loss to the Panthers in the Shoreline Conference championship game, will meet sixth-seeded New London (21-3) for the Class M title next weekend.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Morgan coach Joe Grippo said. “I’ve been to the finals four times, but I’ve never been there at the Mohegan Sun. We’ve been talking about it since the first day of practice and it’s real special.”
Sophomore guard Sami Ashton and junior forward Jen Dawson, who each finished with a game-high 18 points, made some huge baskets down the stretch for Morgan.
Sophomore Josie Sullivan added seven points while junior guard Tori Hopkins chipped in with five for the Huskies, who snapped Cromwell’s 24-game winning streak.
“We had oppurtunities the last two times we played them, losing by two and by one, and we just didn’t finish at the end,” Grippo said. “There was a resolve in practice the last three days and I loved our attitude coming in. I love my kids. They battle and work hard.”
Senior forward Janelle Harrison had 15 points, sophomore Emma Belcourt came off the bench and scored seven and sophomore Mya Villard added six points for the No. 2 Panthers (25-2), who split four their games with the Huskies this season.
“It was a tough one,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said. “I thought we missed a lot of easy layups tonight. If those go in, it’s a different story for us. The breaks didn’t go our way tonight.”
Morgan got 3-pointers from Dawson and Hopkins and built a 10-3 lead after one quarter. The Huskies stretched their lead to nine, but Cromwell responded with the last seven points of the first half, highlighted by a driving layup from Belcourt, and the Panthers trailed 15-13 at intermission.
Morgan maintained the lead until late in the third quarter when Araya Lessard buried a corner trey to tie it at 24 and Nicole Rojas converted a layup off an inbounds pass to give Cromwell a 26-25 lead.
But Sullivan hit a floater and Ashton’s steal and layup gave the Huskies a 29-26 lead after three quarters.
A Harrison putback got Cromwell within 34-31 before the Huskies went on a decisive 9-2 run. Ashton, Hopkins and Dawson each had huge baskets during the spurt, and Ashton’s fastbreak layup off a pair of missed Cromwell free throws gave Morgan a 43-33 lead with 2:37 left to play.
The Huskies will be seeking their first state championship since 2000.
“I’m just very happy,” said Dawson. “This has been our goal all year. We lost to (Cromwell) the past two times and we knew we had to come back and give it our all. We were tired of losing.”
MORGAN 50, CROMWELL 39
Morgan 10 5 14 21 – 50
Cromwell 3 10 13 13 – 39
Jen Dawson 5 7-7 18, Sami Ashton 6 6-10 18, Josie Sullivan 3 1-2 7, Tori Hopkins 2 0-1 5, Kelsey Donaldson 1 0-0 2, Riley Smith 0 0-0 0, Lily Dawson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 14-20 50
Janelle Harrison 5 5-6 15, Emma Belcourt 3 1-2 7, Mya Villard 1 4-8 6, Araya Lessard 2 0-2 5, Nicole Rojas 1 2-2 4, Alyssa Wright 1 0-0 2, Nikki Bitinaitis 0 0-0 0, Emily Appleby 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 12-20 39
3-point goals: Morgan 2 (Dawson 1, Hopkins 1); Cromwell 1 (Lessard 1); Fouled out: Morgan (Josie Sullivan); Records: Morgan 22-5; Cromwell 25-2