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.”

Toomey, Murray, Talutto Lead Lady Bucks to Third Straight District Title

Lady Bucks, Rich Banick Photo

By Steve Svetovich

Three times is a charm.

Freshman Ciera Toomey, sophomore Moriah Murray and junior Anna Talutto combined for 38 points as the Dunmore Lady Bucks beat Holy Redeemer, 52-24, for its third consecutive District 2 Class 3A girls basketball title.

All three have come over Holy Redeemer who captured the district title the previous two years.

The district title win was Dunmore’s 12th in the past 15 seasons as the team continues a dominant run under veteran coach Ben O’Brien.

The 6-2 Toomey led the Lady Bucks (24-1) with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. She also had four assists. 

Murray added 13 points, five steals and four assists.

But it was junior reserve Talutto who initially sparked the Lady Bucks by coming off the bench and scoring eight of her team’s first 13 points. She hit on a pair of 3-pointers which triggered a 14-0 Dunmore run into the second quarter stunning Holy Redeemer.

Simply put, the scrappy Talutto changed the momentum of the game in Dunmore’s favor.

Her drive down the paint put the Lady Bucks up, 5-2. Murray then fired a pass to her along the baseline and Talutto nailed a 3-pointer for an 8-2 Dunmore lead.

Talutto’s second 3-pointer to open the second quarter sent the Lady Bucks on a surge and Dunmore never looked back.

Holy Redeemer only hit on 3-of-30 shots in the first half. 

Dunmore held a convincing 24-7 lead at the half.

Standout freshman Toomey, who played a tremendous all-around game and keeps getting better, hit a 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer to give Dunmore an even more commanding 41-13 lead. 

Her power moves and sharp, aggressive cuts towards the basket throughout the contest were too much for Holy Redeemer to handle.

Toomey scored nine of her points in the third quarter and hit sophomore stalwart Murray, who played a nifty all-around game, for a back door layup to start a 12-2 spurt.

The Dunmore defense held Holy Redeemer leading scorer Sam Yencha to only three points on 1-for-13 shooting in the district title win. Yencha came into the contest averaging 18.5 points per game and with over 1,500 career points. 

Dunmore will now open the PIAA state playoffs against Constitution, the fourth place team from District 12 Friday, March 6.

Dunmore defeated Mid Valley, 51-15, in the quarterfinals, and Wyoming Seminary, 60-27, in the semifinals. Both were dominant wins. 

Murray is Dunmore’s leading scorer at 15.7 points per game. Toomey is close behind at 15.5 points per game. Mia Blume averages 7.3 points. Talutto averages close to seven points per game off the bench.

Dunmore and Holy Redeemer have now met four years in a row in the district title game. Dunmore won, 33-27, and 48-44, the previous two years. 

The two teams met two days before this past Christmas when Murray scored 29 points in a Dunmore 59-41 road win.

This district title win was Dunmore’s 18th straight victory this season. The team’s lone loss came December 29 at the hands of Scranton Prep.