CLINTON >> The game plan for visiting Waterford in its Class M second round contest with eighth-seeded Morgan was pretty simple: contain Huskies senior guard Sami Ashton.
Easier said than done.
Ashton scored her team’s first eight points and Morgan never trailed in an eventual 50-36 victory over the No. 9 Lancers Thursday.
“The key to stopping them is to stop Sami,” Waterford coach Mark Capasso said. “We let her get off to a good start. We started in a zone to try and stop her and, unfortunately, we came out a little passive. We just let her really kind of dictate early. That’s the key: to get her off to a bad start. Instead, she got off to a great start. You can’t play catch up against them.”
Ashton finished with a game-high 25 points. In the process, Ashton set the school record for career points (boys and girls). Ashton broke the previous record of 1,691 points set by Kara Fillion in 2009.
“It’s definitely meaningful,” Ashton said. “I grew up watching Kara when I was in middle school. I would always be at the games watching her, she was amazing. Coming in to high school (Morgan coach Joe) Grippo always said ‘you’re not catching her’. That’s a lot of points. My teammates are always looking for me, and I’ve put in time outside of just Morgan seasons. It means a lot.”
The Huskies (21-4) will visit No. 1 Cromwell in Monday’s quarterfinals. Morgan has lost four straight times to the Panthers dating back to last season’s Class M semifinals. Cromwell defeated Morgan twice during this regular season and again in the Shoreline Conference tournament championship game.
“I can’t tell you it’s the same situation, but last year we beat them three times and then they beat us to get to the Mohegan Sun (Class M championship game),” Grippo said. “They’ve beaten us three times (this season), so we’re going to try and repay the favor. They’re an incredibly talented basketball team, really well-balanced. We’re going to give it our best shot. We’ve gotten closer progressively over the games so hopefully the next game’s ours.”
The first quarter, in which Morgan led 17-6 was the difference in the Huskies’ contest with Waterford (19-7).
“We saw them play NFA (in the ECC championship) and NFA beat them over the head in the first quarter,” Grippo said. “They were down 17-3 or 4 against NFA and then they came back, forced overtime, and really should have won the game. So I told the kids: ‘don’t take this for granted’. We did a great job starting, but we had to continue.”
The Huskies led 30-14 at halftime. The Lancers scored six straight points to open the third quarter to cut the lead to 10, but Morgan scored the next six to essentially end the threat.
“We got a little bogged down offensively, but I thought our defense was off-the-charts good tonight,” Grippo said. “Our man-to-man was really, really good. We got beat a little on the drive more than I would like to, but I was really proud of my (defense) and my kids.”
Josie Sullivan (5-foot-11) had nine points and Riley Thompson added eight points for Morgan. Sullivan was also a force on the boards and on defense.
“She (Sullivan) is making it difficult for other people to score,” Grippo said. “She’s a bear on the backboards. She rebounding and contesting everything.”
MORGAN 50, WATERFORD 36
Waterford 6 8 9 13 – 36
Morgan 17 13 8 12 – 50
Venessa kobyluck 2 9-11 13, Kazi Walker 2 2-2 8, Shea Spellman 2 0-3 4, Kayla Jean-Pierre 0 2-2 2, Mia Brennan 1 0-0 2, Claire Hurley 3 0-0 7. Totals: 10 13-18 36
Sami Ashton 9 5-6 25, Josie Sullivan 3 3-5 9, Riley Thompson 4 0-0 8, Bri Navarra 3 0-0 6, Shannon Maher 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 8-11 50
3-point goals: Waterford 3 (Walker 2, Hurley 1); Morgan 2 (Ashton 2); Records: Waterford 19-7; Morgan 20-4