Porada, a senior forward, had a double-double in the Crusaders' 54-50 Morris County Tournament quarterfinal-round victory over fifth-seeded Whippany Park at Morris Knolls High School on Saturday, Feb. 11.
"Jess comes on at the end of the season with a good run," said Rich Fachet, coach of fourth-seeded and defending champion Morris Catholic. "What she did in this game is typical. She's playing her best basketball now. Jess has been really great over our last few games."
Versus the Wildcats, Porada had 21 points, 13 in the first half, and took down 13 rebounds. She keyed a nine-point run in the second period, scoring seven points to help the Crusaders (17-2) to a 27-18 halftime lead.
She didn't consider her showing exceptional. Porada said she was "just playing hard." Last season, Porada had double-doubles in the MCT semifinals and final and was a reliable scorer in the state tournament.
"We're trying not to think about being defending county champs," she said. "We just come out and play. We don't want to take anything for granted."
Morris Catholic couldn't settle in, not against Whippany Park, one of the most dangerous teams in the state from outside 19 feet, 9 inches.
The Wildcats (15-5) netted 11 field goals from 3-point range. The 3-pointers came off the hands of five different players and rallied Whippany Park.
Sade Idera's field goal 15 seconds into the third period boosted Morris Catholic's advantage to 11 points, 29-18. From there, the Wildcats outscored the Crusaders, 17-9, to end the third quarter behind by only three, 38-35. Alana Dudley, a junior guard, had seven of her 15 points in that stretch.
Over the final eight minutes, Porada had six points and Danni Brown had five of her 10. The first basket of the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Lauren O'Connor with 15 seconds elapsed, knotted the score, 38-38. Brown then completed a three-point play to put Morris Catholic back on top for good, 41-38. The Crusaders managed to keep their edge despite making only 1-of-10 foul shots.
And, the 3s kept coming for Whippany Park. The long-range bombs, though, didn't unnerve Porada.
"Our coach told us that, if we got ahead, we should be careful of them shooting 3s," Porada said. "We couldn't lose it. I wasn't nervous about it. The whole time we were looking inside on offense trying for easy points."
Fachet had his team work on defending 3s yet knew it'd be a large task to stop the Wildcats' multi-pronged offense.
"The 3-point shooters mess up matchups defensively," Fachet said. "There are usually matchups inside for Jess and Sade. They space you out. We practiced closing down their shooters.
"Our girls had to keep their hands up. We couldn't foul them. We had to try and distract them. You hope they miss some. You can never have a big enough lead against a team like that."
Tom Wilson, once again denied the 504th career victory that would've made him the winningest girls basketball coach in Morris County, felt that the Wildcats didn't halt Morris Catholic's drives often enough. Otherwise, he was satisfied with all other aspects of his team's play.
"The biggest problem was allowing points inside," Wilson said. "Morris Catholic made three layups in a row in the second quarter. If we didn't give up layups, we wouldn't have fallen behind by so much.
"The game was pretty much exactly what we thought. We did a good job against the defending champion, which had four starters back, on a big stage. It just wasn't enough."
O'Connor joined Alana Dudley in double figures with 14 points. Idera had nine rebounds for Morris Catholic, whose opponent in the semifinals will be top-seeded Chatham.
The game will be a rematch of last year's final. The Crusaders prevailed, 32-30, over the Cougars at FDU-Florham. Porada returned to the game after being in foul trouble and scored what proved to be the decisive basket.
"I'm really, really excited," Porada said. "We work the whole season to play as a team and we're doing that now. We look for the open people. We've become a good team.