On Sunday, the Shore Conference Tournament will be seeded by a representative from each division. One thing is for sure, there will be no arguments when it comes to who will go into the field as the No 1 team.
Manasaquan put the entire discussion to rest with a 60-57 overtime victory at St Rose in front of a sold out crowd. It was another hard fought classic between two excellent basketball teams who have been cross town rivals for a number of years. From the upper and lower deck, to the student section, nothing could match the energy level in the MAAC on Saturday!
“Coming into this game, we were so ready! We knew it was going to be sold out. This is a huge rivalry. We always look forward to playing them because we enjoy this type of atmosphere and we’re used to it. It was a fun game”, added Manasquan guard Dara Mabrey.
Mabrey has made a habit of playing her best basketball against elite teams this season. She began the 2016-17 campaign with a 33 point explosion in a win over Red Bank Catholic. She poured in another 31 in a double-overtime slugfest at Long Island Lutheran. Tonight, she supplied another 29 along with the two most important plays of the game.
Stella Clark added 9 points and 6 rebounds. It was Clark’s vision that made a real difference at the end. Faith Masonius recorded 11 points, including the basket that put Manasquan up for good in overtime.
St Rose had climbed all the way back after being down 12 at the half. Defensively, the Roses turned their attention to Mabrey who had 19 at the intermission. They would go on a 31-17 surge and steal the momentum in the fourth.
Ellyn Stoll launched a huge three which gave Joe Whalen’s squad their first lead of the day with 4:20 left. Lucy Thomas was a force on the glass, drawing fouls on back to back plays. Thomas, who finished with 14 points went over 1,000 for her career with a three pointer in the first quarter.
“St Rose did an awesome job of fighting back. We made a few mistakes and they were able to capitalize. We need to do a better job of stopping the run before it gets too close, but again, this is all a growing process for us, and we continue to get better in situations like this”, said Manasquan head coach Lisa Kukoda.
With six seconds left, St Rose was clinging on to a 54-52 edge after a pull up jumper from Mikayla Markham. Markham would finish with 14 points on the day. Mabrey’s three point attempt with 10 seconds left bounced off the rim. Manasquan immediately fouled Jen Louro after St Rose got the ball back.
With a chance to more than likely ice the game at the free throw line, Manasquan’s chances were hanging on life support. But how many times have we seen the Warriors somehow miraculously find a way to win this year? It’s like you cannot kill them, even when they are down!
We all watched Red Bank Catholic have Manasquan at the crushing point just a few weeks ago. 17 seconds remaining in that game and all Joe Montano had to do was get a final shot off, and then the officials blew the whistle for traveling which led to Lola Mullaney’s game winner.
This time, Louro would hit 1 of 2 free throws and give the ball back to Manasquan. With time running down, the Warriors once again needed a huge basket. Who would make that play? Well, who else? A certain guard with a never say die attitude!
Dara Mabrey would find a way to get behind the St Rose defense. Stella Clark who is always thinking two steps ahead, found Mabrey wide open on the perimeter for the game tying three. But the even bigger question was, how could Mabrey have been left that wide open?
“When I let the shot go, I was like, ok, open three! In the back of my mind, I knew we were either going to lose the game or go to overtime. It was a little bit nerve wracking in that situation, but it dropped in”, said Dara Mabrey.
“Honestly, there was a little bit of disbelief! We were very fortunate there. We were running into our spots and had a play set, but it just so happened that we had the shot opportunity before we could run it. We had a timeout prepared if we needed it, but Stella made a great decision by finding her easily. Dara had the wide open look, and it’s nice when she’s the one taking the shot. You can see that form going up and the shot going in”, added Lisa Kukoda.
In overtime, Alex Pendergrass scored on an inside feed which gave St Rose the initial lead. Both teams missed some open looks throughout the extra minutes, but it was a Faith Masonius bucket late that put the Warriors up 58-57.
Mabrey’s final moment of the day came on a layup as time ran out. Stella Clark used her superior athleticism to wrestle for a loose ball and maintain possession. Clark held on to the ball and hit a breaking Mabrey who easily scored at the buzzer.
After a huge win and closing out the season on a great note, Manasquan is thrilled but humbled at the same time. It’s always a tremendous challenge to beat a team like St Rose, especially in their gym. This ending was almost like deja vu, as St Rose won the last contest at home two years ago by exactly the same score.
But it was Manasquan who had the more recent bragging rights, winning the last three including last year, and the 2015 TOC and SCT championships.
“This just feels great! We’ve definitely been in this position before. We were in this situation in the TOC championship two years ago. We try to keep our poise, but we always take the game one possession at a time even though it’s going to get hectic! St Rose is a well rounded team both offensively and defensively. In the end, it just comes down to execution and we made the plays”, said Dara Mabrey.
Now, Manasquan will wait to see who they will take on in their first game of the Shore Conference Tournament. They will be watching along with the top seeds who will have a bye on Tuesday night. The 17 vs 16 winner will be their opponent on Thursday.
Hear From Dara Mabrey
Hear From Faith Masonius
Stay tuned to NJSR for all of your previews, updates, and recaps. You can follow @njsportsreport on twitter for all of the action. Be sure to like us on Facebook and check out our YouTube page.