Morgan Girls’ Hoops Regroups Before Shorelines
Sophomore guard Caeley Ayer and the Morgan girls’ basketball team earned a split last week as they prepared for the Shoreline Conference Tournament. Ayer scored seven points and added six assists and three steals in the Huskies’ 48-45 win over Portland on March 15. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Alex Kelly has led by example for the Huskies this season. Kelly has been a force to reckon with in the paint for Morgan. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Morgan girls’ basketball team played out the final week of the regular season and tuned up for the Shoreline Conference Tournament last week. The Huskies played a pair of close games, notching a narrow 48-45 victory in their final seeding game for the tournament and then dropped a 33-32 game against Haddam-Killingworth.
With a 9-3 record, Head Coach Caitlin Woods’s squad has earned the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the Shorelines, which took place on March 20. The Huskies take on No. 10 seed Westbrook on March 22 (after press time). A win over the Knights would pit Morgan against the victor between No. 3 seed Cromwell and No. 6 seed Haddam-Killingworth in the semifinals on March 24 (after press time). The tournament final is scheduled for Friday, March 26.
The Huskies had their struggles in both of their games last week, but Coach Woods wants her squad to move on and be ready for playoff basketball. Senior captain Catie Donadio and Alex Kelly have been a motivating yet calming presence for the whole year, and Coach Woods believes they will help guide the Huskies in the coming weeks, as well.
“We’re loaded with freshmen and sophomores who need to see that leadership from the top and follow suit. I rely heavily on my two senior leaders for that. Catie is a bit more vocal than Alex, but they’re both trying to spark some energy and turn the page,” Woods said. “Individually, we have a lot of talent on the team. We just need to put it all together on the court. We need to be a more disciplined team to beat these tournament teams.”
On March 15, Morgan picked up a 48-45 road win against the Highlanders. Morgan had the early advantage, but Portland gave them a tough battle in the second half. The Huskies got out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter and added to that advantage to make it 26-17 by the end of the half. The Highlanders tied the game at 32-32 after outscoring the Huskies 15-6 in the third, but in the fourth, Morgan edged Portland 16-13 to get the 48-45 win.
Coach Woods was impressed with Portland’s improvement over last season, but also believed that the Huskies didn’t help their cause with some sloppy play at points. Morgan claimed the win in the end, and that is the most important takeaway from the contest.
“After the first half, it was pretty much neck and neck the whole way. When we thought we were pulling away, they hit some big shots. It was a battle. Fortunately, we did what we had to do to win,” Woods said. “They outplayed us in the second half. They are so improved. Fortunately, we pulled out the win. We weren’t happy with our performance, but Portland played well, though.”
Donadio had provided 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, four steals, and three blocks, while senior Alex Kelly added six points, 10 boards, two blocks. Sophomore Caeley Ayer scored seven points to go with six assists, three steals, a block, and a rebound, and fellow sophomore Katie Martin supplied seven points, four rebounds, a steal, and an assist. Freshman Ava Johnson scored six points to go with two boards.
Coach Woods gave Portland a lot of credit for playing solid defense and denying Donadio the ball. It caused issues for the Huskies, but luckily the rest of the team was able to step up enough to eke out the victory.
“Portland’s defense was tough. They denied Catie, even though she had 22 points. They did a good job of just cutting her off,” Woods said. “Hopefully, we learn from that and won’t have that problem in the tournament. So much is put on Catie, and other kids sometimes play a bit too passive, not realizing their own abilities that they can take advantage of. We got the win, though.”
Kelly also played a big role in the Huskies success this season thanks to her steady inside presence. Kelly led the team in rebounds against Portland, and it proved to make a difference.
“I definitely think she’s improved this season especially in terms of battling inside. At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of one-handed rebounds, and that doesn’t cut it against the biggest teams. She’s been working and pulling down those two-handed rebounds,” said Woods. “She’s been tasked with slowing down the best players in the Shoreline. She’s a crucial part of our team.”
Ayer has also been a major contributor for the Huskies this season, especially when it comes to moving the ball on offense and disrupting plays on defense.
“Caeley definitely distributes the ball well. She’s such a great athlete and so fast,” Woods said. “Sometimes she sees things on the court and will try to force a pass a bit too early or late. It’s good that she’s seeing it, but, as she gets more experience, her skills will catch up with her mind. She’s obviously been huge for us both this season and last season. She’s got a huge future ahead of her.”
Three days later, the Huskies lost a 33-32 home game against Haddam-Killingworth, The loss was disappointing to be sure, but the game had no effect on seeding for Shorelines. Coach Woods wants Morgan to forget about this past week and turn it up for tourney.
“We haven’t played as well as we should have, and against H-K that was certainly the case. We missed too many shots, and our defense broke down in the second half. It was a perfect storm of things breaking down and H-K capitalizing. It’s a game that we have to move on from because it just wasn’t us,” said Woods. “I believe that we have the best player in the league, and the kids out there with her have stepped up, too. They’ve been great in different circumstances and have done what they needed to do to lead us to success. We haven’t played our best most recently, and I hope we got it out of our system.”
Regardless of what happens in Shorelines, Coach Woods considers the Huskies’ opportunity to play at all this season a huge victory. Woods’s student-athletes would have been crestfallen if Morgan’s talented seniors did not have the opportunity to close out their careers this winter.
“It certainly feels great that we got a season at all. This year weirdly felt normal even with the masks and protocols. The kids wanted to play no matter what—masks, no fans—they were just happy to get back in the gym,” Woods said. “I can’t imagine if we didn’t get a season, but I’m so happy I don’t have to think of that. We have two seniors finishing up their careers, and I think it would have been devastating for both of them to not have a season. It means the world to both of them to have the camaraderie of the team and the sport as a whole.”