Athlete of the Month: Moriah Murray

Athlete of the Month Moriah MurrayBy Steve Svetovich

After an outstanding freshman season, what does Dunmore Lady Bucks sophomore guard Moriah Murray do for an encore?

She gets named to the Class 3A All-State first-team.

Daughter of Joseph Murray and Lynn Plotkin, the sophomore standout was one of five Lackawanna League players who earned berths on the Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State girls’ basketball team. 

The 5-9 sophomore guard averaged 15.7 points per game in her sophomore season for coach Ben O’Brien and the Lady Bucks.

Moriah was the only player to mount a challenge for Player of the Year honors which was won again by Neumann-Goretti senior Diamond Johnson. 

In two state playoff games, Moriah picked it up and averaged 28 points per game. She scored a career high 33 points, including seven 3-pointers, on 10-of-15 shooting in the 65-51 win over Neumann-Goretti. Moriah added six rebounds and three assists. She was 18-for-27 shooting in the two PIAA playoff games. She scored 23 points and totaled five assists in the win over Constitution.

Moriah had a hot hand and hit 11-of-17 from 3-point range in the PIAA playoffs before Covid-19 stifled Dunmore’s bid at a state title.

Moriah humbly accepted the news of first-team All-State recognition. “I am so happy about it,” she said. “This is a huge honor. It is great for this team.

“Both last year and this season were nice. I could not do it without my coaches and teammates. The coaches always had us prepared.

“And I am so happy our freshman Ciera Toomey was recognized as a third-team All-State selection. We play well together and have so much fun. We definitely have a chemistry. 

“I enjoyed playing with Ciera’s sister Victoria last season, too. I am looking forward to playing at Dunmore in the future with Ciera. She has a bright future and we have such great chemistry together.”

Moriah, 16, said she has been keeping busy during the Covid-19 pandemic playing “hoops” in the backyard with her brother Matt, 23, who played four years of basketball at Dunmore.

Moriah is a member of TACT and the French Club at Dunmore. Her future goal is to play Division I college basketball.

For now, she loves going to Dunmore and playing basketball there. “Going to Dunmore and playing basketball is such an amazing experience,” she said. “It is such a small, close-knit community. The community is totally amazing. The basketball experience starts in the biddy leagues and with our parents. I always looked up to the Lady Bucks and now I am one. Our coach is great and he always puts us in a position to win. Coach O’Brien always has us prepared and ready.”

Moriah said her parents always teach her to be herself. “They just tell me to be my own person.”

The basketball stalwart likes listening to music in her spare time and would like to see Roddy Rich, a rap artist, in concert. She has a 90 academic average and her best subject is history.

She talked about what it takes to be a good guard in high school basketball. “It takes a lot of practice. You need to train by yourself. You need to eat right and take care of your body. And a lot of stretching in the gym helps.”

Moriah talked about the effect of Covid-19 and how it ended the team’s run in the state playoffs. “We were very upset, because in the beginning of the year everybody said we were a young team. No one knew how far this team could go. But we put the time and work in and were playing really well. After we beat Neumann, our attitude was that we could win it all. So it was upsetting in the beginning when we had to stop playing due to Covid-19. 

“We did stay in touch though. We did three zoom calls with our teammates and coaches. We all are staying in touch on social media.

“We really wanted to win it all this year for our two seniors, Nora Haggerty and Katherine Hopkins. It was a bummer not to win for them.

“Dunmore is so amazing. I always wanted to be a Lady Buck and always wanted to play for these coaches.”

Freshman Ciera Toomey Named 3rd Team All-State

BCiera Toomeyy Steve Svetovich

She made an impact.

Enough of an impact as aman that Dunmore freshman Ciera Toomey last month was named to the Class 3A all-state third team. 

Daughter of Pat and Carrie Toomey, Dunmore, Ciera was part of a contingent of five Lackawanna League players who earned berths on the Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State girls basketball team. 

Ciera’s teammate, sophomore Moriah Murray, was a first team All-State selection.

Ciera averaged 16.5 points per game as a freshman.

The 6-2 freshman opened eyes with her play in the second half of the season and hit 51 percent from 3-point range.

Ciera showed a great ability for handling the ball and shooting with quickness and agility.

She averaged 19 points in two state playoff games, shooting 9-of-11 and scored 22 points in a win over Neumann Goretti. She hit 15-of-18 shots in the two state playoffs games before the impact of Covid-19 cancelled the rest of the state playoffs.

Ciera also averaged 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and three blocks in the two state playoff contests.

Ciera was also an All Regional pick as a freshman.

And she comes from good basketball stock. Her mom, Carrie Bowen Toomey, was a Dunmore all-star selection and 1,000-point scorer for Franklin and Marshall College. 

Her sister, Victoria Toomey, earned numerous all-star selections and awards as a Dunmore standout and currently plays for Rider University.

Ciera said she was honored by her third-team All-State selection. “We are in a league with a lot of good players,” she said. “I certainly did not expect it. It could have been anyone.”

The talented freshman said she enjoys playing with sophomore teammate Murray. “Moriah is great,” she said. “She is such a good passer. She makes plays all the time. I just love playing with her. We feed off each other very well.”

Ciera has an impressive 97 academic average at Dunmore. Her best subject is math.

She also plays on the golf team and is a member of the French club.

She praised Dunmore veteran basketball coach Ben O’Brien. “He is such a good coach. He has us prepared all the time. He is a game changer. There is a reason why the Dunmore Lady Bucks win every year.”

Ciera said her parents and older sister Victoria have been big influences. “My parents always teach me to work hard for what I want and to go after it.

“My sister taught me how to play in the post and get position. I was a guard before, so she really taught me a lot and helped with the transition.”

The scholar-athlete said she and her teammates were disappointed with the ending of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We were really playing well, so we wanted to keep going. It was tough ending the season like that. But we were playing great and will have all of our starters back next season. We can go further next year.”

Ciera said she is staying in shape during the stay-at-home orders by working out and playing basketball and golf with her sister Victoria.

She enjoys listening to music, especially Dua Lipa.

She called her freshman experience at Dunmore as “unforgettable” and hopes to play college basketball after she graduates in three years.

“We are a very close team. We have a great bond and outstanding coaching. We hated to see the rest of the season cancelled, but we will come back stronger next year.”

Defense Leads Holy Cross to 4th Straight District 2 Class 2A Title

Crusaders 4 PEAT District 2 Champions

By Steve Svetovich

Veteran coach Al Callejas led the Holy Cross Crusaders to its fourth consecutive PIAA District 2 Class 2A title, 47-19, over Mountain View Saturday, February 29, at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Leahy O’Connor led the Crusaders with 14 points in the title win.

Patrick Bennie added 12 points and six rebounds for Holy Cross.

Holy Cross senior guard Kieran Burrier added six points, nine rebounds, six steals, three assists and a block in a nice all around effort.

Crusaders senior guard James Calciano scored six points.

Holy Cross (23-2) will now face District 4 third-place Sayre in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs Saturday, March 7.

The Crusaders relied on a tough defense forcing early turnovers to generate a 32-7 first half lead over Mountain View. The Crusaders then held Mountain View to only three points in the third quarter to extend the lead to 41-10.

The Crusaders’ first quarter defensive intensity forced eight Mountain View turnovers.

Burrier hit on a 3-pointer off a Caleb Callejas pass in transition off a turnover to give Holy Cross a 9-0 lead with 3:22 left in the first quarter. It was smooth sailing after that.

The Eagles managed only four shots in the first quarter due to a tight, stingy Holy Cross defense led by standout Burrier. The steady senior had four of his six steals in the first quarter. 

After an early 19-0 run, the Crusaders finished the first half out scoring the Eagles, 13-5, with Calciano scoring four of the points and backup guard John Hartridge hitting on a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in the half.

The Crusaders pretty much put the game away by starting the second half on a 9-1 run, with baskets by O’Connor, Bennie, Calciano and Joe Osborne.

Michael Fanelli led Mountain View with 11 points.

The Crusaders defeated Blue Ridge, 68-24, in the quarterfinals, with Bennie scoring 15 and O’Connor and Burrier adding 13 and 11 points, respectively. Holy Cross beat Old Forge, 60-48 in the semifinals, a much closer contest.

Burrier is the Crusaders leading scorer at a shade under 16 points per game. O’Connor averages 11.6 points and Bennie 11.3 points per contest, respectively.

Holy Cross has won four straight and eight District 2 Class 2A championships overall in a basketball program that began in 2007-08. 

Mountain View is coached by former Holy Cross standout Joe Gibbons. He helped lead the Holy Cross program’s first team to a title in 2008 under Callejas. The Crusaders opened this season with a 51-26 win over Mountain View.

Callejas, a member of the Northeast Chapter of the PA Sports Hall of Fame, now has 512 career coaching wins and a highly impressive 41-6 record in District 2 playoff games.

Holy Cross boasts the program’s best record since 2008 when it finished 24-3.

Holy Cross and Mountain View played in the 2017 championship game won by the Crusaders, 46-18.