Christmas Classic Update: Jackson Memorial & Mansquan Win Titles
Jackson Memorial Boys Win WOBM Classic Title
By Scott Stump
For the most part, the numbers were gruesome in Jackson Memorial’s win over Toms River North in Friday night’s WOBM Classic championship game at Pine Belt Arena, but the only ones that mattered to the Jaguars were on the scoreboard.
Top-seeded Jackson Memorial pulled out a 31-28 win over sixth-seeded Toms River North to capture its second WOBM title in the last three seasons and its fourth overall since the tournament’s inception in 1984. The Jaguars (6-0) did it despite shooting 10-for-36 (27 percent) from the field and committing 17 turnovers, combating the offensive woes by digging in defensively to make Toms River North’s struggles even worse than their own. The Mariners (4-2) shot 7-for-31 (22 percent) in the loss. Jackson’s 31 points were the lowest amount scored by the winning team in tournament history, which was previously held by Southern in a 38-37 overtime victory against Monsignor Donovan in 1992.
The one shooter who was on his game was 6-5 Jackson Memorial senior Brandon Holup, who went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. He buried three of them in the second half on his way to finishing with a game-high 15 points to help bring home the win. Holup was named to the All-Tournament first team, while teammate Brandon McDonnell, a 6-7 senior, earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors and had 12 points in the victory.
Toms River North senior guard Alex Levchenko led the Mariners with 10 points and earned All-Tournament first-team recognition, and junior forward Solly Stansbury had eight points and was named to the All-Tournament second team by the coaches.
“It wasn’t pretty at all, but it’s a win,” McDonnell said. “We’ll take it. We just had to keep defending. They couldn’t score the ball much on us. We struggled making shots, but Holup came up big in the end.”
“It’s about winning,” said Jackson coach Joe Fagan. “It doesn’t matter what the score is. At the end it’s going to say, ‘The ‘W’ goes to Jackson Memorial.”’
The game was tied at 25 with 1:40 left in regulation when Holup buried a 3-pointer from the left wing, and the Jaguars never trailed again. Toms River North answered with a bucket by junior guard Karl Blum to cut the lead to a point, but Holup came right back with another 3-pointer for a 31-27 advantage with 1:10 to go.
“I missed my first one, and as soon as I made the next one, I started feeling good for the rest of the game,” Holup said. “As soon as I made those (threes in the fourth quarter), I knew that could be the changing point of the game.”
“He knows he’s got the green light,” Fagan said. “If he’s open, go ahead and fire it. We’ll try to offensive rebound the misses or we’ll go down and guard the other end. He shoots with a lot of confidence because our guys give him that confidence. They tell him, ‘If you’re open, go ahead and shoot it. We don’t care if you’re 0-for-5 or whatever.”’
After Holup’s second straight longball, Jackson then missed the front end of two one-and-ones to keep the Mariners’ hopes alive. Levchenko made one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to make it a one-possession game, and the loose ball off his missed free throw went off a Jackson player and out of bounds to give Toms River North a chance to tie.
Levchenko was fouled before the Mariners could inbound the ball, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jackson had the possession arrow on the ensuing tie-up on the loose ball following Levchenko’s miss. Jaguars senior guard Brian Kenny missed the front end of a one-and-one, and a desperation heave at the buzzer was off the mark to allow Jackson Memorial to claim the title. It marked the first of at least three meetings this season between the Class A South rivals, who will play again on Tuesday in a pivotal division game as the Jaguars look to defend their Class A South title from a season ago.
“I think this is a statement about our basketball program,” Holup said about the Jaguars’ second WOBM title in three seasons. “People have underestimated us, and we’re better than they think.”
Jackson led 14-10 at the half after the two teams combined to shoot 7-for-34 from the field and had a combined 15 turnovers. Toms River North was methodically working the ball for 30 or more seconds on every possession, while Jackson could not get anything to fall.
“We tried to change everything. Ran a bunch of quick hitters, changed personnel inside and outside, and it just wasn’t working,” Fagan said. “All year long, we talk about guarding, guarding, guarding, and at some point, we’ll have games we make a lot of shots and some games we don’t. The games we don’t, we’ve just got to make sure we can rely on guarding people.”
Levchenko had seven of his 10 points in the third quarter to give Toms River North a 20-19 lead going into the final period. Jackson senior forward Anthony Skwiat scored inside to make it 25-24 with 2:38 left in the game and then the Mariners tied it on a free throw by Blum before Holup’s final flourish gave the Jaguars the lead for good.
“We knew we needed to step things up,” Holup said. “They couldn’t really score on us, so we knew we just had to execute on offense.”
The All-Tournament first team consisted of McDonnell, Holup, Levchenko, Point Boro senior point guard Shaun Cooke, St. Rose senior point guard Mark Kukoda and Toms River South senior forward Elijah Dupree. Selected to the All-Tournament second team were Stansbury, Kenny, Central senior guard Jeremy Wozniak, Manchester junior guard Mason Jones, and St. Rose junior guard Conor Leddy.
Jackson Memorial 31, Toms River North 28
TR North (28): Gebia 0 0-0 0, Singleton 0 0-0 0, Levchenko 3 3-5 10, Carrington 0 0-0 0, Williams 0 0-0 0, Blum 2 2-4 6, Rush 0 0-0 0, Martin 1 0-0 2, Ringel 0 0-0 0, Stansbury 3 2-2 8, Bernath 0 0-0 0, Wrightson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 7-11 28.
Jackson Mem. (31): Simon 0 0-0 0, Kenny 0 2-4 2, Goscinski 0 0-0 0, Hogan 0 0-0 0, McDonnell 4 4-4 12, Carter 0 0-0 0, N. Specht 0 0-0 0, Holup 5 0-1 15, Bell 0 0-0 0, Skwiat 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 6-8 31.
TR North (4-2) 4 10 5 12 – 28
Jackson (6-0) 4 6 10 8 – 31
Three-pointers: (J) Holup 5; (T) Levchenko. Fouled out: None.
Manasquan Girls Capture First WOBM Classic Title
By Matt Manley
Manasquan senior and University of Notre Dame recruit Michaela Mabrey is one of the top scorers – if not the top scorer – in New Jersey and any team would jump at the chance to pencil her into their starting lineup. Not only does Manasquan have one of the top players in the state wearing Warrior blue, but on the rare occasion that Mabrey has trouble scoring, they have a dead-ringer for a stand-in.
Freshman Marina Mabrey, the younger sister of Michaela, scored a career high 24 points Friday at the Pine Belt Arena while her sister struggled through an off shooting night, and the top-seeded Warriors shook off another slow start to beat No. 3 seed Jackson Memorial 60-50 and capture their first WOBM Christmas Classic championship.
“This wasn’t our best game and this definitely wasn’t my best game, but I don’t need to score every game for us to win,” Michaela Mabrey said. “There are going to be games when one of us is off or some things don’t work, but we know each other and we know how to play through it.”
Marina Mabrey scored 15 of her points in ths second half and nine during the third quarter, which saw Manasquan assert itself on both ends. The Warriors started the quarter on a 10-0 run and outscored the Jaguars 19-7 over the entire eight minutes of the third.
“That’s her, that’s what Marina can do,” Michaela Mabrey said of her sister. “She’s just starting to get going and when she does, she’s going to have a lot of games like this.”
Michaela Mabrey finished with 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting – including 0-for-5 from 3-point range – while battling a sore tailbone and Jackson Memorial senior guard Tiffany Montagne, who shadowed Mabrey throughout the game before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Despite an uncharacteristic statistical line on Friday, Mabrey earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors behind a 35-point outburst in Thursday’s win over Rumson. Marina Mabrey was named to the all-tournament second team.
Sophomore point guard Katelynn Flaherty scored 21 points to go with five assists and five steals, keying the second-half defensive effort that showed the Jaguars more full-court pressure. Flaherty was also named to the all-tournament first team.
“We wanted to give them different looks,” Flaherty said. “They have good guards and we did want to press them when we could, but more than that, we wanted to keep them guessing. In the second half, we really picked up our defense and played with a lot more energy.”
Jackson Memorial jumped out to a 16-10 advantage in the first quarter and led 26-23 at halftime, making it the second night in a row that Manasquan trailed at halftime. Rumson-Fair Haven took a lead into the third quarter against the Warriors in Thursday night’s semifinals before the Warriors took control.
“We were only down three and we’re not going to stay cold forever,” Flaherty said. “We put more pressure on their guards and made sure they didn’t get the same open looks and we started to turn our defense into offense. And Marina stepped up and played big.”
The Jaguars hits four of their seven 3-pointers in the game during the first half, with junior guard Hannah Missry hitting two of the four. Missry finished with four threes and led Jackson Memorial with 21 points.
Montagne scored 10 points and turned in a strong defensive performance against Michaela Mabrey. In Thursday’s win over Point Pleasant Borough, Montagne guarded another prolific scorer in guard Kelly Hughes, who scored 29 points but just five in the fourth quarter.
Jackson Memorial played without Jazmine Curet, who injured her ankle on Thursday and turned to Erin Scheno to replace her in the starting lineup. Scheno scored two points in the loss.
“Our plan was to slow Michaela down as much as possible with Tiffany on her and we did a good job,” Jackson Memorial coach Rachel Goodale said. “It’s tough when they have a player like her sister that can do what she did tonight, but that’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the state right now.
“I’m very happy with the way we played (during the tournament). You’re not going to find many tournaments that have this kind of talent and this kind of competition. That’s as good as it gets in the state and we felt, coming in, that we were ready to play with the best teams in the state and I think we did that.”
Manasquan 60, Jackson Memorial 50
Jackson Memorial (50): Tiffany Montagne 4 0-0 10, Hannah Missry 7 3-4 21, Shannon Evans 4 0-0 8, Stephanie Mason 2 4-8 9, Eric Scheno 1 0-0 2, Sydney Lavan 0 0-0 0, Sarah Dessner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-12 50
Three-Pointers: Missry 4, Montagne 2, Mason
Manasquan (60): Katelynn Flaherty 6 7-8 21, Michaela Mabrey 5 1-2 11, Sam Sullivan 2 0-4 4, Marina Mabrey 8 6-8 24, Melissa Pavia 0 0-0 0, Gretchen Fay 0 0-0 0, Bridget Ford 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 14-22 60
Three-Pointers: Flaherty 2, Ma. Mabrey 2
Jackson Memorial (5-1) 16 10 7 17 – 50
Manasquan (7-0) 10 13 19 18 – 60