Photo Gallery by Bill Normile

Shore Conference Tournament Bracket


WEST LONG BRANCH – Prior to their Shore Conference Tournament championship game against St. Rose on Saturday, junior Marina Mabrey had waited two years to get back to the SCT final and the Manasquan girls basketball program had not brought home an SCT championship trophy in 31 years.

What was another month of waiting?

The fifth-seeded Warriors ended their 31-year SCT dry spell Saturday at the Multipurpose Activities Center on the campus of Monmouth University by beating No. 2 St. Rose, 61-41, for their first SCT championship since 1983 and third overall.

Photo by Bill Normile.

Junior guard Courtney Hagaman scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half while Mabrey posted a line of 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals to lead Manasquan. Senior and three-year starter Sam Sullivan also added 11 points and five assists while anchoring the inside of a Manasquan defense that allowed St. Rose to shoot just 5-for-20 on two-point field goal attempts.

“We had the right mindset this time,” Mabrey said. “We did the work that needed to be put in. We stressed defense over offense. We wanted to set the tone with our defense, and we knew the offense would come later on. That’s what happened, and I just think this was all from being more prepared and having the right mindset.”

Mabrey was a freshman starter on the 2011-12 Manasquan team that won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, but lost to St. Rose in the SCT final. Mabrey transferred to Point Pleasant Beach for her sophomore season, led the Garnet Gulls to the Group I championship and the T of C semifinals, only to transfer back to Manasquan on Jan. 4.

Although she had to sit out of game action for a month and Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda, her staff and the players had to acclimate to everything that comes with adding a player of Mabrey’s caliber, the working and the waiting paid off on Saturday.

“I knew this was going to happen when I came here,” Mabrey said. “I had faith in my team, I had faith in my coach, that she was going to be able to handle it the right way.

“I know a lot of people were waiting for me to spoil the chemistry by coming in in the middle of the season, but I knew that’s not the way I operate, and I knew (Kukoda) doesn’t let anybody operate like that.”

Mabrey and Sullivan both were starters on the 2012 team that lost to St. Rose, when the Warriors and Purple Roses were the top two seeds. Hagaman and senior Eva Hart also played sparingly on that Manasquan team, which beat St. Rose during that regular season and later in the T of C semifinals.

Mabrey and Hagaman also had older sisters who started on that team and who have since graduated.

Junior Courtney Hagaman scored a game-high 20 points and hit three 3-pointers to help lead Manasquan to its first SCT title since 1983. (Photo by Bill Normile)

“It definitely hit us that we had older girls on the team who missed a chance to win, and we felt like we didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” Hagaman said. “A lot of us saw that game and some of us played in it, so yeah, we wanted to make the most of our chance this time.”

Manasquan jumped out to a 11-2 lead after the first quarter and once Mabrey hit one of two free throws on the first possession of the second quarter to make the score 12-2, the Warriors led by double-digits the rest of the way.


[onescreen item="5215104"]


A 15-0 run built Manasquan’s lead to 18-2 and the lead swelled to 22-3 late in the second quarter. St. Rose did not score its first field goal until 2:33 left in the second quarter when senior Sarah Kurtz hit a 22-foot 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 22-8.

The Manasquan defense not only held St. Rose to 2-for-15 shooting in the first half, but the Warriors also forced nine St. Rose turnovers. Manasquan forced 19 turnovers in the game, which helped offset 18 giveaways of their own.

“I told the girls it was going to be our defense that either won or lost this game for us,” said Kukoda, a former assistant and standout player at Red Bank Catholic. “They are obviously a very good offensive team, and we had to step up defensively. They run a lot of screens and a lot of dribble-handoffs and it was going to be our communication and intensity, and as long as we showed that every defensive possession, it was going to work in our favor.”

While Manasquan’s defense carried it to a 24-12 halftime lead, the Warriors finally caught fire from the field in the third quarter to pull away. After turning the ball over on its first two possessions of the third quarter, Manasquan scored on five straight possessions as part of a 12-2 run that stretched its lead to 36-14. Hagaman and senior Bridget Ford both hit threes during the runs, which ignited a 4-for-7 showing by the Warriors from behind the three-point line in the second half after shooting 1-for-5 in the first half.


[onescreen item="5215103"]


[onescreen item="5215107"]


“In the third quarter, we made sure we came out strong because if we didn’t, they definitely had a chance to come back,” Hagaman said. “We didn’t want to let that happen so we made sure we came out in the third quarter and gave it our all.”

“We talked about coming out in the third quarter and guarding them on the perimeter because if they were able to hit a few shots to start out, then suddenly they would have some momentum to get them back in the game,” Kukoda said. “We talked a lot about what we needed to do defensively to stop them, and it turned out we were the ones that hit some threes to start the half.”

Hart was a defensive standout for the Warriors Saturday with nine rebounds and three steals to go with her defense on St. Rose junior guards Kat Phipps and Jess Louro.


[onescreen item="5215106"]


Kurtz led St. Rose with 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. She was the lone Purple Roses player in double figures.

“We didn’t help ourselves by missing some shots early,” St. Rose coach Joe Whalen said. “We missed some open shots, some foul shots and that wore on us. They did a great job taking away the lane and contracting on the lane, which didn’t allow us to kick it out to our shooters.”

This version of Manasquan has only been playing together since Feb. 4, when Mabrey first became eligible to play in games, but there was plenty of familiarity between Mabrey and many of her former teammates. The only variable in the equation was Kukoda, who took over the program after a tumultuous offseason that saw Mabrey and then-sophomore standout Katelynn Flaherty leave for Point Beach and head coach Felix Romero step down.

The Warriors could have potentially returned four starters from a Tournament of Champions team, but instead lost their top three scorers – Flaherty, Mabrey and Mabrey’s sister Michaela, a senior Notre Dame recruit and McDonald’s All-American.

“We thought we would be a good team before the season started,” Hagaman said. “Nothing really changed when Marina came except now we had Marina.”

Kukoda took the job to build the Warriors back up step by step and had already led the Warriors to an 18-7 record in her first season. The team got off to a fast start to this year, winning the WOBM Christmas Classic by beating Red Bank Catholic, which had just defeated Manasquan days early in the season opener.

Then news of Mabrey’s transfer surfaced prior to the New Year and the step-by-step process took a giant leap forward.

“I would say not much has changed,” Kukoda said. “That was the big conversation when she came in: we’re still the same team, we’re still the same program. We’re not looking to change anything. We’re going to keep our fundamentals, and we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing well,and the reason it’s worked so well is because Marina came in with that same mentality, to be a part of what we’re doing.”

Manasquan went 5-3 during the month of January with two losses to Rumson-Fair Haven and one to St. John Vianney. The Warriors lost Mabrey’s first game back on Feb. 4 to St. John Vianney, a game in which she played less than half of the game and did not start, and have since won 10 straight on the way to an SCT title.

Next up for Manasquan is a run at the NJSIAA Group II title, which will go through Rumson-Fair Haven, the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group I. The Warriors are the No. 4 seed and are lined up for a potential third meeting with the Bulldogs - who lost to St. Rose in the SCT semifinals on Tuesday - in the sectional semifinals.

“I was really familiar with the girls on the team, so that wasn’t a problem,” Mabrey said. “The key for us was going to be learning our new roles and accepting those new roles. I thought that as long as everyone accepted their roles, there was nobody in the Shore Conference that was going to be able to stop us.”


Box Score

Manasquan 61, St. Rose 41






Manasquan (20-5)






St. Rose (23-3)







Manasquan (61): Eva Hart 1 0-1 2, Courtney Hagaman 7 3-5 20, Sam Sullivan 3 5-6 11, Marina Mabrey 5 9-10 18, Bridget Ford 1 0-0 3, Stella Clark 2 1-4 6, Addie Masonius 0 1-2 1, Molly Bryant 0 0-0 0, Alexandra Kurtz 0 0-0 0, Tara Dugan 0 0-0 0, Chiara Palombi 0 0-0 0, Gillian Black 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 18-28 61

Three-pointers: Hagaman 3, Ford, Clark

St. Rose (41): Kat Phipps 2 2-2 7, Payton Smith 0 3-5 3, Sarah Kurtz 3 4-5 13, Cindy Napolitano 1 0-0 3, Jess Louro 3 1-4 8, Amy White 0 2-2 2, Rose White 1 0-0 2, Alex Pendergrass 1 0-0 2, Ellyn Stoll 0 0-0 0, Meghan Hall 0 1-2 1, Kayla Dillinger 0 0-0 0, Gianna Cretella 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 13-20 41

Three-pointers: Phipps, Kurtz 3, Louro, Napolitano

Fouled Out: Kurtz, Louro