Immaculate Conception girls basketball can’t come back all the way in the state finals
Immaculate Conception had a habit of falling behind early many times this season, only to come back.
In the Non Public North B state final, the Lions were in that same situation against Morris Catholic.
Unfortunately for Immaculate, an injury really put a crimp in its comeback attempt to catch Morris Catholic in the title match on March 1 at Kennedy High School in Paterson.
The fourth-seeded Immaculate Conception girls could not close it out in the final minute and fell, 55-49, to the second-seeded Crusaders. The girls, who were seeking the program's first state title, finished with a 22-6 record as well as the Essex County Tournament championship.
In what was her last game with Immaculate, senior guard Ciera Cevallos had one of her best games, with 19 points, including three 3-point buckets, as she helped lead the comeback. Sophomore Nila Giraud and senior Tyonna Bailey added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Morris Catholic had four players in double figures, led by Mia Pauldo with 21 points. The Crusaders dropped seven three-point shots.
As it turned out, the game might have been decided in the first few minutes of the third quarter.
The Lions saw their deficit rise to 15 points with two minutes left in the first half. But they came roaring back in those final minutes and continued that into the second half.
Immaculate cut it to eight, 29-21, two minutes into the third quarter, but then suffered a major injury.
Sophomore starting guard Camille Wiley went down near the baseline after going to the basket and being fouled. She needed to be carried off the floor after injuring her left foot and would miss the rest of the game. It was a tough pill to swallow for the team, as she averaged 28 minutes per game.
"It was a massive difference," head coach Jimmy Kreie said. "Over the last month I think she's been our most consistent player. She gives us the same thing we need every single night. She's one of the best defensive guards in the state, and she gets to the rim whenever she wants."
Without Wiley, Immaculate was still able to continue hacking away at the Morris Catholic lead and got it to one point, 40-39, one second into the fourth quarter after Giraud hit one of two free throws.
But the absence of Wiley showed during the comeback attempt.
Every time the Lions were a possession away from tying the game or taking the lead, they came up empty, and Morris Catholic would get just enough, especially from the Pauldo twins, Mia and Mya.
Earlier in the season the Lions girls basketball team brought home the Essex County Tournament title, making it back-to-back county championships for the program.
For next season Immaculate will have to fill the void that will be left with the graduation of Bailey, Cevallos and guard Ore Ogunwolere.