Folks, we have had a tremendous season in the Shore Conference. We have seen all kinds of meaningful games. These kids have done nothing but battle it out on the court all year. It’s always tough for me at this time of year because I am excited for the playoffs, but at the same time sad to see another season go. One thing we can definitely be sure of is that the SCT Finale is going to be everything we hoped for and more. There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to see the Clash of the Champions on Friday night. These are not only the two best teams at the Shore, but No 1 and No 2 in the State. This is going to be a really fun preview.
No 1 St Rose (26-0) vs No 2 Manasquan (22-2)
Monmouth University at 630 PM – Fri 2/27 – The Shore Sports Network will have this game live on the radio.
Key players for St Rose.
Kat Phipps Sr – 24.4 ppg, (135 three point shots), Jess Louro Sr 17.5 ppg, Elizabeth Mariscano Fr 4.3 ppg, Ellyn Stoll So 5.8 ppg, Jennifer Louro So 4.3ppg
Key players for Manasquan
Marina Mabrey Sr 24.9 ppg ( Mcdonalds All American), Dara Mabrey Fr 8.5 ppg, Courtney Hagaman Sr 8.4 ppg, Stella Clark So 7.2 ppg, Victoria Galvan So 6.6 ppg
This matchup is always a classic between two of the best programs in the State. It’s hard to believe that these two teams have met in the SCT Final 3 out of the past 4 years. St Rose won the game 65-56 in 2012, and Manasquan took last year’s championship 61-41. Marina Mabrey, Courtney Hagaman, and Kat Phipps will all play in their third SCT championship game. All three players already have one SCT championship and will be playing for their second.
The first thing I will tell you about these teams is that it is very hard to find two coaches like Lisa Kukoda and Joe Whalen. They are simply two of the best in the business. Kukoda in her short career has outcoached some of the best in the biggest games of the year. Lisa’s performance on Tuesday night against SJV was spectacular. With All American Marina Mabrey in foul trouble two minutes into the third quarter, Lisa was able to motivate her team to maintain their lead, and control the pace of the game. She is only in her third season and has won an SCT, Group II Title, and was the TOC runner up last year. On the other hand, Joe Whalen in only his third year has had a lot of success. Let’s face it, all this man does is win. He spent years as an assistant to Bob Hurley on the powerhouse St Anthony’s boys basketball team. Whalen has won two straight B Central titles, SCT runner up last year, a Non Public B title, and a TOC final four finish. Joe Whalen’s Purple Roses also gave eventual TOC Champion Shabazz everything they had only losing by 9 points. Both coaches are already not that far away from 100 wins.
When St. Rose has the ball
Joe Whalen will try to get Kat Phipps going fast. The team does a fantastic job of creating shots for her. When she is on, it makes this team very tough to beat. She leads the state with 135 three point shots. If Phipps is left open, she barely ever misses. Jess Louro is as tough in the paint as they come. She will fight for rebounds, loose balls, etc. She is also has a lot of mobility for her 5-10 size. Middle Tennessee State is getting a strong all around player. Elizabeth Mariscano has been a real surprise for St. Rose as a freshman. She played very well in the first game against Manasquan. She is not only deadly in the post but can hit the short jumpers with ease. Sophomore Jennifer Louro had a great semifinal game against Middletown South with 19 points. The younger Louro knocked down two threes in the game. She is quickly becoming a bigger part of the offense. Manasquan will look to stay in front of Phipps, it will be up to shooters like the Louro’s and Ellyn Stoll to knock down shots. Jess Louro will have opportunities to get to the basket. In the 60-57 win, St. Rose was able to get Manasquan in foul trouble by going after them in the lane. I expect Joe Whalen to try to get that advantage once again on Friday. St Rose can simply beat you in so many different ways. They have a deadly group of shooters, and are also very strong inside. When they are hitting their shots, you could find yourself down by 15 in no time. Dara Mabrey and Stella Clark will try to stay in front of the shooters to slow Rose down. Joe Whalen will adjust to create opportunities.
When Manasquan has the ball
Marina Mabrey is as great an all around player as they come. Notre She can play any of the 5 positions on the floor and excel at it. We have seen Marina step up time and time again on the big stage. She is averaging just under 25 points per game, and can beat any time at the Shore singlehandedly on any given night. Next year we will see Marina move on to No 4 ranked Notre Dame. What an accomplishment for this young lady. With this game, St Rose will look to sell out on Marina early. When the double teams occur, Marina’s teammates must step up in a significant way. We saw that on Tuesday night against SJV. Courtney Hagaman had one of her best games of the year with 14 points including 4 three point shots. When Hagaman is on, Squan is very tough to beat. Hagaman played a huge part in last years run with the game winner against SJV, and 20 points against St Rose in the 2014 Final. Freshman Dara Mabrey must also contribute. She has done a great job knocking down shots all year. She also has that nice little floater when she drives to the lane. One of the most underrated players on Squan’s team this year has been big Victoria Galvan. I knew that Galvan would need to make an impact for Squan to make another SCT or TOC run. Galvan has not only answered that challenge, but has done it against tough competition. We have seen her rebound, block shots, and get better and better in the post. She did a great job against Kimi Evans in all three SJV games this year. Galvan is only a sophomore and will only keep improving! Of course, we can’t forget about Stella Clark. Stella is simply so much fun to watch. The 5’3″ point guard truly has the heart of a champion and plays like she is much bigger. We saw the impact Stella can make late in the game Tuesday night. Defensively as a coach, you must be aware of Stella at all times. She can quickly come up with the ball and be going down the other side of the court in a second.
I believe if Vegas were to set a line on this game, it would really be a pick e’m. There are so many factors going into this game. Manasquan is thinking about the 60-57 loss back on 2/14. You know Marina Mabrey would love to close out her SCT career with 2 conference championships. At the same time, St Rose certainly has not forgot about last years final. Kat Phipps would also like to win her second SCT. The outlook is very simple. This game will come down to who makes the best decisions at the right time. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes, and makes the big plays at the end will take the SCT. I don’t think this game will be anything like the 20 point one we saw last year. These teams will battle their hearts out and it will go right down to the wire. No matter what happens, we will see a great one, and this may not be the last! Both teams could very well meet in the TOC final if they take care of business in the State Tournament. Wouldn’t that be a great finish? In this game I will say St Rose wins 62-60 and Joe Whalen wins his first SCT. However, don’t bet against Squan in the TOC!