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.” 

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.”

Undefeated Dunmore Lady Bucks Win Second Straight District Title

LADY BUCKS BASKETBALL

By Steve Svetovich

Victoria Toomey, Moriah Murray and Lisa Tallo combined for 26 of Dunmore’s points as the Lady Bucks defeated Holy Redeemer, 33-27, to win its second straight Class AAA District 2 championship Saturday, March 2, at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Freshman stalwart Murray and the multi talented Tallo hit clinching free throws in the final 37 seconds to clinch the title win for the Lady Bucks coached by veteran Ben O’Brien.

It was undefeated Dunmore’s 25th consecutive win.

Alexis Chapman made a huge defensive play at mid court late in the fourth quarter that led to Tallo making a nice pass to Murray for a clutch 3-pointer from the left wing with 3:07 left in the contest.

Chapman hustled on the play as she deflected the ball before chasing it down.

It may have been the defensive play of the season for the Lady Bucks.

Chapman was also clutch on offense hitting a big 3-pointer to help Dunmore to its biggest advantage, 23-18, midway through the third quarter.

Cameron Marchinkowski hit a 3-pointer for Holy Redeemer to tie the game, 26-26, with 4:17 left in the contest.

After the Lady Bucks (25-0) missed a shot, Holy Redeemer (21-4) looked to take the lead before Chapman came through with her defensive gem that led to Murray’s 3-pointer.

Holy Redeemer had another shot, but missed three of four free throws before Murray hit two with 37.2 seconds remaining.

Tallo added two more free throws with 15 seconds left.

Standout senior center-forward Victoria Toomey, last season’s Player of the Year, and Murray led the Lady Bucks with nine points each in the district title win. Tallo added eight points, four assists and four steals. Gianna Delfino scored four points.

Delfino, an all around talent, had nine rebounds to lead the Lady Bucks. Toomey added eight more rebounds.

Another highlight in the contest came at the conclusion of the first quarter when Tallo, who seems to do it all, took an inbounds pass at three-quarter court, went behind her back at the key and hit on a running 17-foot shot.

The Lady Bucks easily defeated No. 4 seed Wyoming Seminary, 57-19, in the semifinal contest Saturday, February 23, at Marywood University.

Freshman phenom Murray led the Lady Bucks with 20 points and added three assists in the semifinal win.

Toomey, who will play basketball at Rider University next year, and Tallo scored 10 points each.

Toomey, the ultimate team leader, added six rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Alex Wesneski led Wyoming Seminary (15-10) with eight points.

The Lady Bucks now play a first round PIAA state playoff game against Constitution, the fourth seed from District 12, Friday, March 8.