Forward Chynna Dunneman moves through traffic to find an open pass against Bayonne on Tuesday, Dec 26.

by Andrew Garda

CALDWELL—The Montclair Mounties girls basketball team took great strides forward over the Christmas break, winning two out of their three games in the Mount St. Dominic Invitational. MHS beat the Bayonne Bees on Dec. 26, by a score of 36-31 before defeating host Mount St. Dominic, 45-33. The only time the Mounties stumbled was during their last game, which they dropped to a tough Piscataway Chiefs team, 64-38.

The Chiefs rolled through the tournament undefeated, outscoring their opponents by 170-74. The Mounties actually scored the most points on Piscataway of any team in the invitational.

Despite a disappointing end to the week, coach Emily Hall was happy with her team overall.

“I like how we handled ourselves,” she said after Friday’s loss. “Everybody held together. Despite missing a few shots or a few assists, everybody still stayed positive on the floor. There was no discouragement at all.”

Hall felt that overall, the week was a success. Last season, there were more teams in the invitational, but the Mounties went only 2-1. While they didn’t improve in terms of record this time, Hall felt beating Bayonne and Mount St. Dominic will help her young team’s confidence.

Mounties coach Emily Hall pulls her team in for a quick strategy talk before the second half of Montclair’s 36-31 win over Bayonne.

“We had a win streak,” Hall said. “And while they were out-of-conference games, I think that was a great morale boost for these girls.”

The loss to Piscataway was a good reminder that while the Mounties have improved, they still have work to do. Knowing that Bayonne kept its game against the Chiefs closer, Hall said, the Mounties have more work to do on defense. She also pointed to overall conditioning and toughness — both physical and mental — as areas that need improvement.

“For me, I’m not content finishing in second place,” Hall said.

The Mounties’ week started off with an outpouring of 3-point shots against Bayonne. In fact, all of the team’s 15 first-quarter points came from the perimeter against the Bees, and the team had nine 3-pointers by the end of the game.

“I guess we had a good shooting day,” Hall said afterward. “The fact that we had 15 of our 20 [points] in the first half off threes—I was shocked. If we could only shoot like that all the time, especially against teams like University—that would be clutch.”

The Mounties also got a spark from a new addition to the lineup.

MHS sophomore Aalia Carlson sends a ball up for a score during the Mounties 36-31 win against Bayonne.

Junior Aalia Carlson joined the team late in the process, and took part in only her sixth practice just before the Christmas break.

Her impact was immediate, and Carlson absolutely looked at home with the rest of the starting five during the week. Over the course of three games, she scored 35 points, adding six 3-point shots in the last two games.

Adding her into the mix with Syncere Lambert — who has scored in double digits every game but the first this season — and Lea Antoine, who scored 22 points in the games against Bayonne and Mount St. Dominic, gives the Mounties multiple weapons on the floor.

They’ll need all three of those players and more as they face a tough Newark Academy team on the road Wednesday before getting back to conference play next week.