Athlete of the Month: Moriah Murray

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore junior Moriah Murray scored her 1,000th career point and three weeks later led her team to another Lackawanna League Division III title.

And then COVID-19 placed a pause in the fate of the Dunmore girls basketball program in the hands of District administrators. 

At press time, a total of three Dunmore girls players tested positive for COVID and because of the timing and state mandated quarentine protocols, the earliest the Lady Bucks can return to action is Friday, March 5. The team is currently seeded second in the Class 4A playoffs, but the dates initially posted by District 2 call for that bracket to begin play Thursday, March 4. 

Eight other Lsckawanna League teams are also on pause due to COVID protocols.

Daughter of Joe Murray and Lynn Plotkin, Moriah said she and her teammates remain prepared, focused and ready for the district playoffs. 

“We are on pause now with nine teams affected due to COVID,” she said. “We won the league title and we’ve been practicing hard. We will be ready for everything. We can’t wait to get going again. We will take it game by game.”

Moriah hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 points as No. 2 Dunmore clinched the Lackawanna League Division III title with a 71-35 win over No. 6 Old Forge Wednesday, February 24. Ciera Toomey added 17 points and Cadence Lewis added 10 points for the Lady Bucks. 

Three weeks prior, Moriah reached a personal milestone scoring her 1,000th career point in a 71-45 win over Holy Cross Wednesday, February 3. The junior standout reached the milestone on a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Moriah scored 15 points in her milestone game. Toomey led the Lady Bucks with 19 points. Anna Talutto added 18.

The Lady Bucks are 16-1 under veteran coach Ben O’Brien going into playoff action.

Moriah took a pause to reflect on her 1,000th point. “It was kinda crazy,” she said.

“You don’t think about the points, but rather about your teammates and coaches who put you in a position to accomplish something like that. My heart stopped when the buzzer sounded… It was just such a great feeling.”

Moriah has a 92 academic average. Her best academic subject is math. She committed to play college basketball at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She will play there with Riverside standout basketball player Kylie Lavelle, another junior and 1,000-point scorer who is a good friend.

“I am undecided on a major, but I am looking forward to playing basketball with Kylie at Drexel. She is a very good friend. We played in AAU leagues together over the years. I am looking forward to the type of intensity of basketball at that level.”

Moriah has learned a lot about the game of basketball from her dad. She started at a young age playing in AAU leagues. She said her parents always taught her to “be myself.”

Confident and articulate, Moriah said her Lady Bucks team has a simple goal. “Get into the districts and win the district playoffs. Then win the state playoffs. We were on our way last year when COVID struck. We feel there is a need to finish off a goal. And we are ready for it. We want a state championship. We don’t want to come up short for any reason. We’ll go game to game until we reach our goal.” 

“I am not even thinking about college now. I am excited about that down the road. But right now I am focusing on Dunmore and our team.”

The junior scholar-athlete is a member of the French Club and TACT at Dunmore. She is also a key member of the Lady Bucks softball team as a shortstop and pitcher.

Moriah started playing in AAU leagues at age seven, “It was such a great experience,” she said. “I picked up so many skills and moves from the other girls in the AAU  leagues.” 

Moriah said she loves Dunmore and her friends and teammates. “I just love the whole Dunmore experience,” she said. “I love the whole town of Dunmore. It is such a small borough. Everyone is so close, especially our basketball team. We have been together through thick and thin.” 

Lady Bucks Advance to Second Round in State Playoffs Before Shutdown 

Lady Bucks Ciera Toomey

Ciera Toomey, a freshman with the Dunmore Lady Bucks is shown in action. She has been named to the Lackawanna League Basketball Coaches first team all-stars. (Photo credit: Rich Banick Photography)

By Steve Svetovich

The Dunmore Lady Bucks were on a roll.

Only a national pandemic could stop them.

And then the season came to a quick halt.

The Lady Bucks, coached by the veteran Ben O’Brien, defeated Neumann-Goretti, 65-51, in the second round of the PIAA Class 3A girls basketball playoffs at Freedom High School in Bethlehem Tuesday, March 10.

Dunmore easily beat Constitution, 62-23, Friday, March 6, in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A girls basketball playoffs.

But the Coronavirus threat halted the end of the winter sports season and sent high school athletes home. A national shut down, which does not include “life essential ” workers, has been since extended to April 30. 

Social distancing is the mantra now to help thwart the spread of COVID-19, and keeps local athletes away from teammates. It’s simply keeping people away from each other. 

Businesses, schools, gyms, restaurants, sports arenas, concert venues, movie theatres, life as we know it, are shut down.

Dunmore sophomore Moriah Murray scored 23 points and added five assists in the win against Constitution. She hit four 3-pointers.

Dunmore freshman Ciera Toomey added 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Murray exploded for a career-high 33 points, including seven 3-pointers, in the second round win over Neumann-Goretti, 65-51, Tuesday, March 10, at Freedom High School in Bethlehem. She added six rebounds and three assists.

Toomey scored 22 points and added seven assists and five rebounds.

Elisa Delfino hauled down five rebounds. Anna Talutto and Alexis Chapman contributed three assists each. Mia Blume had two assists.

Murray and Toomey were both selected as Lackawanna League Coaches first team all- stars. Talutto and Blume were honorable mention.

Lady Bucks Moriah Murray

Moriah Murray, a sophomore, shown here on the court for the Lady Bucks basketball team, has been named to the first team all-stars by the Lackawanna League Basketball Coaches.

“It’s sad to see that our season could potentially be over,” Murray said to The Dunmorean. “as we felt our team had more to accomplish.

“I’m proud of how our team came together and won a league and district title. I will be very sad if we can not finish our season for my teammates and especially for the seniors.”

Murray swished her first six 3-pointers, none shorter than 23-feet, against Neumann-Goretti. The sharp shooter hit on 10-of-15 shots in the win.

Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year Diamond Johnson scored 35 points for Neumann-Goretti.

Dunmore had a 39-21 lead at one point, but Johnson helped lead a comeback. She scored 10 points in two and one-half minutes to cut Dunmote’s lead to eight points after three quarters.

However, Murray hit one of two foul shots after a technical, the scrappy Anna Talutto drove into the the paint and hit a soft 12-footer and Alexa Chapman finished a fast break on a Toomey nifty pass. Murray’s wing drive made it seven straight for Dunmore after the technical.

The Lady Bucks all of a sudden had a 56-43 lead with 3:42 left and did not look back.

Only the Coronavirus could stop this team.

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.