The Jefferson players and their coach, Jim O'Connor, apparently believe that they will benefit from hard work and they certainly have.
The Falcons' 47-39 victory over seventh-seeded Randolph in a Morris County Tournament semifinal on Friday, Feb. 17 provided more proof.
"We know what we have to do and go out and do it," O'Connor said. "The girls play hard every game."
Other teams, no doubt, have had the same philosophy but third-seeded Jefferson has bought into it. The Falcons (21-1) are all about teamwork and gritty play. They toil endlessly to meet their goals.
A balanced attack highlighted the win that vaulted Jefferson into the MCT final opposite top-seeded Chatham. The championship will be decided on Friday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at FDU-Florham.
Three Jefferson players - Imani Brown (12 points), Lapszynski (10) and Kristen Swerzenski (10) - scored in double figures and Kristen Flaherty had nine.
"Everyone steps up when they have to," said Lapszynski. "We have full confidence in everyone on the team."
That mindset was required versus the Rams. So was unselfishness.
Jefferson led for all of the first half and established an 18-10 lead when Lapszynski, a senior forward, scored from close range 1:29 into the second period. The Falcons frequently sent the ball inside to Lapszynski and Swerzenski, a junior forward, and benefited from Brown coming off the bench to score seven of her points in the first half.
The Rams, appearing in the semifinals for the first time since 2002, used a triangle-and-one in hopes of limiting Flaherty, a 3-point specialist, and to hold down Lapszynski and Swerzenski.
Randolph seemed to hustle more in the third period and pulled ahead by one point twice. Rams sophomore Aliyah Huland El (12 points) fired in a 10-foot jumper midway through the third quarter to put the Rams in front, 26-25. Brown then connected at 3:32, regaining the advantage for Jefferson, 27-26. Mallory Grey's layup at 2:30 put the Rams back on top, 28-27.
Eight consecutive points, including 3-pointers by Flaherty and Brandy Corsaro, boosted the Falcons' edge to 35-28.
"We weren't ready for how fast Randolph came out and how into it they were," Lapszynski said. "We got a little flustered but we calmed down."
In the fourth quarter, the Rams tried yet couldn't put together a run. Randolph's shooting was cold. It made only 3-of-13 attempts.
"We didn't do well offensively in the fourth quarter," Randolph coach Kristin Torres said. "Flaherty leaked out for a 3 and we began running out of gas. We forced the ball and you can't do that."
Flaherty's 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining in the closing period gave Jefferson its largest lead, 42-32.
"We all have different roles and everyone helped out," Flaherty said. "We all worked to get open and kept our confidence up."
Lapszynski, who signed with Niagara University recently, says being in the final "means a ton." She and the Falcons just claimed the NJAC-American Division and want all the banners they can get.
Jefferson played in the Sussex County Interscholastic League Festival final in 2009, falling to High Point. The next year, the Falcons began playing in the MCT after the SCIL was disbanded and they became part of the NJAC.
"I want us to have a year that we'll remember for a long, long time," Lapszynski said.