WOOLWICH TWP. – The Kingsway Regional High School girls basketball team had worked too hard to get to this point and Morgan Robinson wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away.
The Dragons senior catalyst scored 20 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, including her team’s first seven points in the third quarter, hit wide-open teammates with some timely passes and was everywhere defensively to keep Kingsway within striking distance of Washington Township in their South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinal contest.
The third-seeded Dragons, who had led just once in the game at 3-2, finally grabbed the lead and the game when sophomore forward Haley Phallines stole an inbound pass, hit a short jumper and made the foul shot to put Kinsgway ahead 47-46 with 18 seconds left in the game.
It was only fitting that Robinson would steal the ball, get fouled and make two free throws to put her exclamation point on a 49-46 Kinsgway victory and a berth in the group semifinals. The Dragons will travel to Cherokee, the No. 2 seed, on Friday, but they wouldn’t be there without Robinson. She added 12 rebounds, seven steals and six assists to her 25 points.
“Every once in a while, you get to coach a special player that can take her game to another level and be the catalyst and get everybody going,” Kingsway coach Lamont Robinson said. “That’s Morgan. She does everything.”
Michiya Davis, who hit a huge three-pointer and a layup to cut a seven-point deficit down to two with a little over a minute left in the game, has been playing with Robinson five years and wasn’t surprised with how her teammate stepped up.
“I’ve been playing with her since seventh grade,” Davis, who finished with eight points, said. “She never stops. She will fight to the very end to win no matter what.”
Washington Township, the sixth seed, led 15-5 after the first quarter and its offense was precise. Emily Johns and Madison Dulude combined for all the Minutemaids’ points.
The Dragons outscored the Minutemaids, 8-2, in the second quarter with Robinson scoring five. But she was just getting started. After scoring Kingsway’s first seven points in the third quarter, she fed Becca Blaszczyk and Phallines for buckets and Kingsway stayed close entering the fourth quarter, trailing 28-25.
“I think we just started to come together,” Robinson said. “We started making some shots. We started driving to the basket more and just started getting everybody involved. We knew we had to keep fighting and focus on every possession. We kept the pressure on them to try and force some turnovers and we wanted to put them on the foul line.”
The fourth quarter started the same way as the third with Robinson scoring her team’s first seven points. The Minutemaids opened up leads of five points twice and seven once and each time Robinson was there to answer for the Dragons.
“We never thought we were out of the game,” she said. “We just kept playing and kept fighting.”
The Minutemaids opened up one more seven-point lead, 44-37, but that is when Davis answered with her triple and a driving layup to make it 44-42 with 1:16 left. From that point Kingsway outscored Washington Township 7-2, finally taking the lead on Phallines three-point play.
Robinson scored 13 points in the fourth quarter including a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line.
“Definitely, when she is playing like that, it gets the other girls going,” Davis said. “We know we got to do it too.”
For the Minutemaids, it was a heart-breaking loss. They were in control early and fought through Johns missing chunks of the game because of foul trouble. She would eventually foul out with 2:04 left after having scored a team-high 17 points. Dulude, who added 13, missed some critical time when she hurt her leg in the fourth quarter, but fought through it to finish the game.
“My kids were confident coming in,” Washington Township coach Jen Natale said. “We knew their sets, we knew how they played, we knew what they liked to do. I thought we did a really good job. They didn’t quit. They fought to the end. This is a special group.”
S. J. Group 4
Kingsway 49, Washington Twp 46
Washington Twp 15 2 11 18 – 46
Kingsway 5 8 12 24 – 49
WT – Emily Johns 17, Madison Dulude 13, Noelle Gaspar 2, Julia Marino 8, Katie McCusker 6.
K – Sheyenne Pacenza 3, Taylor Gary 2, Michiya Davis 8, Morgan Robinson 25, Becca Blaszczyk 3, Haley Phallines 5, Lauren Hengy 3.