Playing winning basketball is not supposed to be this easy, or feel so mundane. Unless of course you enter the iconic gym of Manasquan High School, a building established on reputation and legacies like that of Dara Mabrey’s. Leading a Warriors team that’s refused to be denied all season long, Mabrey’s 13 points were more than enough to carry Manasquan to a 67-43 thrashing of Lincoln in the Central Jersey Group II Final.

The win was business as usual for a Manasquan team that paraded the Virginia Tech bound Mabrey onto the floor for her final home game alongside Junior Maryland commit Faith Masonius and D1 talent Lola Mullaney.

“I wasn’t going to let any other team come in here and take this sectional title away from us” – Dara Mabrey, Manasquan

All three players would have their say in taking an outmatched Lincoln team completely off their game, playing with speed and purpose on offense to jump ahead 16-5 after eight minutes of play.

A three-point play from Masonius followed by a Mabrey triple would force a Lincoln timeout late in the quarter, as Manasquan jumped ahead 16-5.

Working patiently on offense, Lincoln could not get anything past Masonius on the defensive end underneath – nor handle the dominant forward powering her way to the basket early and often.

Masonius scored nine points in the opening quarter, adding an abundance of high-flying rebounds, and Manasquan was set to defend their home floor for a fifth straight year in a sectional championship.

“We knew that this was going to be a game that Faith could really have a big game for us, based on the match ups and what our advantages could be. She played great on the defensive end, and all five girls did a great job of doing what we wanted to do – a great team effort on the defensive end” – Lisa Kukoda, Manasquan Head Coach

Every single time Lincoln looked to close the gap, Manasquan had the answer. They’ve been here before, and wanted needed to take this necessary step in managing their way back to the TOC.

Daniya Darby would split a pair of free throws at the line for Lincoln to make the score 23-12 in the second, only to promptly be beat on the baseline by Masonius.

Faith’s basket was followed by a Carly Geissler three, opening Manasquan to a 28-12 advantage. At halftime, the Warriors led 35-17.

Three pointers from Croskey and Mumford early in the third would do nothing to phase Manasquan, as their masterfully coached talent won out again to close the quarter up 58-26. Through these eight minutes of play, it was Lola Mullaney getting in on the scoring, pouring in 12 points with a three to beat the buzzer.

Lincoln won the fourth quarter 11-9, but Manasquan won their second trophy in as many weeks with the 67-43 triumph.

The win allowed Coach Kukoda to enter the Manasquan locker room and check off another accomplishment from this team’s list, something she alluded to after the win.

“We have a checklist in our locker room, and every time we get these wins we check it off. It’s exciting to see coach get happy when she can come in and make that check mark on the board. We are expected to win these games, but it’s still an achievement for our team and our program.” – Faith Masnonius, Manasquan

The gesture is enjoyed wholeheartedly by the players, while also keeping them on track towards a collective end goal. What is that elusive final mark on Manasquan’s checklist?

Nothing less than the Tournament of Champions, according to Masonius herself.

Hear the rest of Manasquan Head Coach Lisa Kukoda’s post game thoughts here: