I walked into the familiar Manasquan High School gym tonight, prepared to see the Warriors for the first time in this young season. The end result was all too familiar for a cast of stars led by Dara Mabrey – who had a game high 21 points – as Manasquan dismantled a good Middletown South squad 73-46.
For Lisa Kukoda’s team, the first of many knockout-worthy blows would come in the first eight minutes of play, as her team led 19-4 after one. Middletown South would be forced to call timeout just over a minute into the game, falling behind 6-0. Manasquan was a step ahead out of the gate, and throughout the night, as a Mabrey steal and outlet to Stella Clark followed by another Clark finish that came off of a Carly Geissler steal set the tone that the Warriors were about to put on a show in front of their crowd.
Haley Dalonzo would put the Eagles on the board with a nice drive out of the corner for two, but the Warriors closed out the quarter strong on a Mabrey three followed by four straight points by Lola Mullaney.
Both Mullaney baskets came on second chance opportunities, as a common theme throughout the night was Manasquan dominating the glass and the battle of turnovers.
A bright spot for Middletown South would be freshman Kayla Richardson, who finished with 11 points. Five of these points would come early in the second quarter, as she countered a post basket from Victoria Galvan before burying a three to draw her team within 21-9.
Relentlessly, Manasquan continued to find ways to distance themselves on the scoreboard though, as Faith Masonius and Galvan scored on consecutive put backs to put Manasquan ahead by 19. Leading by 15 after one, a 14-1 run saw Manasquan go to the locker room in front of their home fans up 35-10.
“I’m fortunate to have the girls that we have with the basketball IQ that they have. At times it can be a little overwhelming, but by challenging them early in the season we become more comfortable as we progress through the season.” – Lisa Kukoda, Manasquan Head Coach
Middletown South would show some fight in the third, as Tom Brennan’s team actually had a chance to win the quarter and head into the final eight minutes of play with some momentum. Instead, Dara Mabrey’s five straight points in the final minute of the quarter made the difference in a period that Manasquan won 21-16.
“They were a lot bigger than us in this game. We wanted to tire out their defense and get good shots. They are a top ten team in this state, and we were prepared from the start. We were focused, and everyone stepped up today. Moving on, it is great for our confidence. Everytime we come into this gym, the community here is amazing. Its fun playing together.” – Dara Mabrey
Balsamo and Richardson continued to battle in the paint for the Eagles, but it was far too little and much too late for a Middletown South team that did little to take Manasquan out of their rhythm offensively – fueling that fire with countless turnovers of their own.
Manasquan’s depth was on full display in the fourth quarter, as their defensive intensity remained high to close this game out the right way.
I walked into the familiar Manasquan High School gym tonight, prepared to see the Warriors for the first time in this young season.
Eventually, this season won’t be young anymore, but I left this gym with a feeling that for as long as the season may go – the Manasquan Warriors will be right in the mix of things once again.