SPRING VALLEY – Playing the regional host in a semifinal Monday, the No. 3-seeded Morrison girls basketball team found itself locked in a tight battle in the first half.
But the Fillies made an offensive switch, closed the first half on a 14-2 run and pulled away for a 57-39 victory over No. 7 Hall in the Class 2A Hall Regional semifinal.
“I thought we came out and played the game we needed to play,” Morrison coach Kerry Grim said. “It’s tough when you play the home team on their court, and we kind of got treated like the visitors more than the home team even though we’re the higher seed, but the girls came out and did what we asked them to do. We executed our game plan and came out with the W.”
The Fillies (19-13) advance to play No. 2 Riverdale in the regional championship at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We’ve played them multiple times, and they’re a really tough team, but I think if we play with the energy we had tonight and just the strength and confidence, I think we can have a good game,” Morrison junior Camryn Veltrop said.
Morrison lost to the Rams 46-39 and 49-45 in Three Rivers Conference West Division play earlier this season.
“It’s going to be a dogfight, we know that,” Grim said.
And it was a dogfight early. After Morrison took an 8-3 lead with Veltrop scoring all eight points, the Red Devils battled back to tie it at 12 at the end of the first quarter when Charlie Pellegrini knocked down a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Hall took the lead at 15-14 on a 3 by Kennedy Wozniak with 6:44 left in the second quarter.
“We were moving the ball well, we hit some shots,” Hall coach T.J. Orlandi said. “Defensively, we were working.”
The Fillies made a change on offense and finished the half on a 14-2 run, turning a 21-19 lead with 4:11 left into a 35-21 lead by halftime.
“At the end of the first half, I switched the offense from running a baseline offense against their zone – they were trying to pack it in on us – and went with three posts and started attacking a high post so we could get the ball inside,” Grim said.
Emery Brewer hit a shot and Jordan Eads followed with a 3 to start the run before the Fillies went inside.
Veltrop hit two free throws then converted a three-point play on an assist from Kaylee Pruis before Avery White scored on a putback and off an assist from Pruis to close the half.
“Just moving the ball around helped us a lot, and just not forcing it,” Veltrop said. “We have trouble forcing it sometimes. Just slowing down, passing the ball around and waiting for a good shot really helped us.”
Orlandi said Morrison hitting some outside shots affected the Hall defense, and the Red Devils didn’t shoot well enough to keep up with the Fillies.
“I thought when they started hitting some outside shots, some of our girls got pulled out a little bit more than we wanted,” Orlandi said. “They got us extended out and that hurt us.
“We ultimately didn’t hit enough shots. We were 9 of 21 from the line. You can’t have that. I thought we missed a lot of shots in the paint that might have made the game closer. I thought we got good shots, but we have to knock them down.”
McKenna Christiansen scored the first seven points of the third quarter to cut Hall’s deficit to 35-28 with 4:42 left, but the Red Devils never got closer.
Morrison led 45-29 after three quarters and led by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
Veltrop, who became the Fillies’ all-time leading scorer last week, finished with a game-high 26 points, while Eads scored 12 points.
Christiansen scored 16 points in her final game with the Red Devils (15-16), while Charlie Pellegrini sank three 3s and finished with 10 points. It also was the last game at Hall for Haylie Pellegrini.
“I think this game was similar to our season where we were up and down,” Orlandi said. “We had a lot of games this year where we had that one quarter that killed us. A lot of games we were able to come back and make it a game. We couldn’t hit enough shots or get enough stops to do it today.
“I’m going to miss our seniors. Haylie and McKenna have been a part of our program for four years. They’re really good kids. They’re the kind of people you want in your program. They both had really good careers.”