Mount St. Dominic handled the basketball against Trenton Catholic’s vaunted diamond press fittingly by showing it the kind of care reserved for a precious gem.
It was delivered from one player to the next in seamless transitions until it rested in the hands of a wide-open shooter, who released it with a feathery and precise touch reserved for the highest jeweler.
Execution has always been a staple of the Mount. It takes such an underlying part of the game seriously and against the reigning NJSIAA Tournament of Champions winner elevated it to the exact level necessary to spring an upset.
“With (Trenton Catholic), they need to score off transition,” said Mount St. Dominic coach Jerry Aquino. “They want you to make a mistake playing in that diamond press. If you take care of the ball and don’t hurry, you are going to be able to score because there are open seams.”
Mount St. Dominic had no problem in that department. Junior Camille McPherson turned in arguably the finest offensive performance of her blossoming career and classmate Stefani Alston was equally sharp to balance a defensive showing that hinged on heart and hustle as Mount St. Dominic registered a 61-54 upset over previously-unbeaten Trenton Catholic, No. 4 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings, on Sunday afternoon in the Scholarship Fund for Inner City Children Festival at Kean University in Union.
McPherson, a rugged 5-9 forward, couldn’t have been much sharper, converting 11 of 19 from the floor and 8 of 10 at the line en route to a career-high 30 points to go with her nine rebounds. The finesse she showed attacking the basket was available after she hit her first bucket on a foul-line jumper and forced TCA to respect that element of her game. Her surging confidence begged Mount St. Dominic (4-4) to explore her as an option throughout the course of the contest and she made it pay off.
“I just felt really good,” McPherson said of her shot and the balance of her range. “I was confident when I had the ball and my teammates we’re getting me good looks. My confidence has definitely improved and this was a great game to step up to help my team win.”
“We told Camille before the game that (Trenton Catholic center Tyler Rasor) is not going to come out and guard you,” Aquino said. “You are going to have to stick it and keep shooting it until I tell you to stop. And, that’s what she did and she kept sticking it and sticking it. And, when they came out, she attacked the rim. She did a really nice job playing within her space.”
Alston, a 5-11 swing, contributed 14 points while flaunting a passing sense which was infectious and at the root of the Mount’s offensive effectiveness (23 for 49 from the field). No option was overlooked in search of the ideal shot.
As for defense, Mount St. Dominic’s 2-3 zone was designed to deny Trenton Catholic (7-1) its affinity for dribble drives while conceding the perimeter. Sophomore Isis Young exposed that to a degree at the outset of the fourth quarter with TCA trailing, 46-41.
Young knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to trim the Mount’s advantage to 48-47 with 6:51 to play but that was as close as the Iron Mikes came to claiming the lead. Alston hit a free throw as well as a jumper and McPherson finished inside to make it 53-47.
Young, who had six rebounds and four assists to go with her team-high 18 points, connected on a pull-up with 2:23 to go to narrow the gap to 57-54, but Mount St. Dominic held Trenton Catholic scoreless the rest of the way to seal the victory.
“We knew they were going to come out tenacious,” said Mount St. Dominic senior Mallory Shickora, who had eight points, eight rebounds and five assists, of Trenton Catholic. ``We believe in our coaches and we believe in our system. This was the first game in a really long time that we put everything together.”
Senior Brittany Manna, a 5-7 guard, epitomized the hustle of Mount St. Dominic by finding ways inside to grab nine rebounds as the Lions owned a 34-32 edge on the boards to go with their efficiency with the basketball (10 turnovers).
Raysor, a strong 6-2 sophomore center, powered her way to a putback as part of a three-point play that started the third quarter and staked TCA to a 35-34 lead. Alston responded with an 18-footer off a dish from Veronique Hut that touched off a 12-2 tear and gave Mount St. Dominic its largest lead, 46-37, with 2:32 showing in the third.
Robin Perkins, a 5-10 senior swing, scored 12 of her 16 points before halftime for Trenton Catholic, which had a 16-game winning streak that dated back to last season snapped, while Raysor ended with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner