By Sean Lynch
NEW PALTZ — Monroe-Woodbury head coach Pat Harris’s message team from the tip-off was very simple:
Value every possession.
In their only meeting against the Wildcats this season, Monroe-Woodbury turned the ball over 19 times, and lost 37-33.
It was the first game of a three game losing streak for the Crusaders — a stretch where they struggled with precise ball-movement and controlling the tempo.
Monroe-Woodbury turned the ball over only 11 times and secured a 44-29 victory over the Wildcats in the Class AA championship Wednesday evening.
“We did a great job controlling the tempo tonight,” said Harris. “Last time in their gymnasium we weren’t able to dictate the tempo and it hurt us. Warwick is a really well-conditioned team and the last time we played them, our team was drained by the end of the game.”
The Crusaders controlled the tempo for all 32 minutes with a wire-to-wire win and led by as many as 23 in the second half.
“All the credit in the world goes to my teammates,” said junior center Jamie Waldron. “As a team, we played amazing, but especially Toni & Taylor Neely. They work so hard every practice and I’m so happy to see it pay off for them.”
The Neely sisters combined for 35 of the team’s 44 points. Taylor scored 18 & Toni scored 17. Together, they make up the most fearsome twin duo in Section 9.
Toni Neely with three of her 17 points against Warwick
As for what’s next, the Crusaders advance to the regional final vs. Ossining next Saturday at SUNY New Paltz.
Ossining is a four time-state champion, winning the championship from 2013-16.
Monroe-Woodbury played them last month, losing 77-45. When asked what they’ll have to do different against them this time-around, Harris and Waldron gave identical answers.
“Take better care of the ball.”
“The first time we played them, we were really sloppy,” added Waldron. When we play them again, we need to control the tempo and make smarter plays on both ends of the floor.”
“We let that game get out of hand because we were so sloppy with the ball,” Harris added. “Ossining put great pressure on us and we didn’t adjust. When we play them again, we’ll have to do what we did today. Value every possession.”