For a December game, this is everything fans could have wanted and more. Two top 5 teams battling right down to the wire. Manasquan had to give everything that they had to pull out the win. RBC showed a lot of toughness and heart, coming back from a 48-41 fourth quarter deficit to take the lead. But overall, it was the big game experience of the Warriors that prevailed in the 66-62 win.
Here Are Six Observations From Last Night’s Showdown.
DARA MABREY IS GOING TO HAVE A SPECIAL SPECIAL YEAR!!
Let me remind everyone that Marina Mabrey took her biggest leap between her sophomore and junior season, becoming not just the ultimate scorer, but the ultimate teammate and leader! Last night, I watched younger sister Dara Mabrey put this team on her back time after time again. Her floor vision shows Power 5 conference all the way! When RBC got into foul trouble in the second, Dara immediately attacked the Caseys by smelling blood and getting to the foul line. In the fourth with 1:32 left, she completed a blockbuster three point play that gave Manasquan the lead for good. It’s as simple as this, Dara showed the ability to score in the critical moments, throw her teammates open when the opposition didn’t expect it, and play lockdown defense that was remarkable. Putting up a career high of 33 points against a very talented RBC team is off the charts and I believe she is just getting started!
RBC IS THE REAL DEAL AND WILL COMPETE FOR A NON PUBLIC A SOUTH TITLE.
Before the game, I asked the question whether RBC would be able to fight despite any adversity that would be thrown their way. When the Caseys trailed by 7 going into the fourth, there was a time when this team would have completely folded. Two years ago, Manasquan would have taken that 7 point lead and turned it into a 20 point win. This time, RBC would not except that result. They completely buckled down and gave themselves a shot at a signature upset. Joe Montano got great production from several of his veterans in the pinch. 26 points from Josie Larkins, 13 from Tia Montagne, and 12 from Katie Rice kept the Caseys alive. Maureen Coakley also poured in 9 points with a nice effort inside. RBC came all the way back to take a lead with minutes to go. These kids showed tremendous fire and guts last night!
HAVING TIA MONTAGNE BACK MAKES RBC A DIFFERENT TEAM
There is no doubt that this game proved how much of a difference Tia Montagne can make for this Caseys team. Combining Montagne with Rose Caverly in the backcourt makes the Caseys a much quicker and more athletic team. You could see how much faster RBC could get the ball down the court and execute on big plays. Montagne took her chances, hitting an early three, but her biggest play of the game came on a steal in the fourth quarter that turned into a three point play which helped RBC retake the lead. She was playing with a ton of energy and enthusiasm and that will serve this team well going down the stretch!
LOLA MULLANEY IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE
One thing that makes Lisa Kukoda such a great coach is her ability to maximize the talent on her roster. Over the years we have seen players like Eva Hart, Bridget Ford, Courtney Hagaman, Mollie Bryant and Nikki Stevens all be given a specific role to carry out. Hart was a defensive specialist in 2014 while Hagaman turned into one of the deadliest big game shooters in the Shore. Go back and watch her performance in the 2014 Shore Conference championship win over St Rose and you will see. Last night, Kukoda brought sophomore transfer Lola Mullaney off the bench. Mullaney impacted the game in two ways. She knocked down a big shot in the second half coming off a feed from Dara Mabrey that was perfectly executed. The second big play came in the final minute and a half when she cut right into an RBC rally by ripping off a steal and hitting Faith Masonius for a layup. What was another reason Manasquan pulled out this win? The bench! Mullaney scored all 7 of her points in the second half, and that was huge for the Warriors momentum.
VERMONT GOT A REAL STEAL WITH JOSIE LARKINS
Before the game, I was thinking about who would take the ball if RBC had a chance to win. Which player would be the one to make a real difference? Well, Josie Larkins was that player last night. Larkins, shot 9-17 from the floor and finished with 26 points, but it was her fight and will to win that was more than apparent. Larkins drained two dynamite threes that gave RBC the lead midway in the fourth. Overall, Larkins connected six times from downtown! Remember, she scored 26 points against possibly the best roster in the state. That is very very impressive. Larkins is in for a mega year!
FAITH MASONIUS QUIETLY DID WHAT SHE DOES BEST
Most people would take 14 points and 10 rebounds in a heartbeat, but when Dara Mabrey scores a career high 33 points, those numbers kind of fall under the radar. But that’s okay. Faith more than showed that she is not only on her way to becoming a star, but she has a tremendous ability to impact the game at the right time. When she bolted to the basket late in the fourth quarter, that was huge because it showed the multiple ways that Manasquan can hurt a defense. Faith was all over the place throughout the night. Several times, I watched Stella Clark hit the sophomore forward on fast break opportunities and it was just phenomenal to watch. The speed, athleticism, and floor awareness is just top notch and a thing of beauty! This group is going to be very very tough to beat over the long haul.
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