TOMS RIVER - Any team in the NJSIAA Group II bracket that might have breathed a sigh of relief that two-time defending group champion Manasquan was losing a McDonald's All-American to graduation after last year got a rude awakening when they ran into the Warriors this season.

Not only has the Warriors returning backcourt of Stella Clark and sophomore Dara Mabrey led the way, but freshman has been made enough of an impact to turn the Warriors into a potential dynasty.

Clark, Mabrey and Masonius combined for 53 points Sunday in the Group II championship as the Warriors beat High Point, 68-43, to capture their third straight group title and fourth in the last five years.

COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERY BY RAY RICHARDSON

Photo by Ray Richardson.

"We all had a lot of energy this game and came in ready to take it," Clark said. "Everyone was doubting that we'd even make it to the (Tournament of Champions) and I think for us, knowing that people were doubting us just gave us that extra grit and fight to want to get there even more."

"It's nice to see everyone step up," Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said. "Even though a lot of them have the experience, it's still a young group, so to see them step up as leaders, to watch them jell as a group at this point is a nice way to live up to the expectations."

Manasquan's sixth ever state championship run ended with another dominant performance, giving the Warriors six Group II wins by an average of 18.7 points per game. Even in Thursday's five-point win over Sterling, Manasquan held a double-digit fourth quarter lead.

"We came into this game knowing last game wasn't our best and we didn't want to end our season today," Masonius said. "We just came out really strong, in a way trying to make up for last game when we didn't play as well together or finish our shots as much. We all brought it to this game."

Clark finished with a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and four assists, while Masonius pitched in 18 points, five assists and three steals. Mabrey poured in 15 points and junior Addie Masonius contributed five points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

Clark and Mabrey sparked a fast start by the Warriors, with the two combining for 16 of Manasquan's 21 first-quarter points. Clark scored nine in the quarter and pumped in 15 by halftime while Mabrey netted seven in the first quarter and took 12 points to the halftime locker room.

"When (Clark) starts off the game knocking down the shot, you take a little bit of a deep breath as a coach," Kukoda said. "Once she does that, we know we have a good look ahead of us."

Sunday marked the sixth time Manasquan played at Pine Belt Arena this season after playing six games at the Toms River venue last year. In the last three years, Manasquan is 18-0 at Pine Belt.

"The first few minutes we stepped on the court, I was just like, 'Coach, we can run right now, let's go,'" Clark said. "It was just such a good feeling being on this court again. It's almost like a home-court advantage because we've played here so many times."

Faith Masonius took over the in the second half, when she scored 12 of her points. She scored eight in the third quarter, during which Manasquan went on a 15-0 run to extend its lead to 53-22. Masonius scored four quick points in the fourth quarter and after assisting one of those baskets, Mabrey converted a three-point play to make it 64-38 and begin the exodus of Manasquan starters to the bench.

Manasquan senior Faith Masonius. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

The addition of Faith Masonius to the program has helped the Warriors quickly overcome the graduation of current Notre Dame freshman Marina Mabrey, who led the Warriors to the T of C title last year and also won it as a freshman starter in 2012.

"In the preseason, everyone was asking, 'How are you going to do it without Marina?,'" Clark said. "I've been playing with Faith for so long and I knew she was going to step in. She's a big presence and I don't think a lot of people knew what a difference she was going to make. She's such a power weapon just like Marina was that power weapon last year. She can do so much of what Marina did in that she is such a hard person to guard that it helps the offense out a lot."

Manasquan will play Wednesday in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions at Pine Belt Arena. The Warriors are the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 University at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of the quarterfinal double-header. The winner will play No. 2 Rutgers Prep on Friday.

St. John Vianney drew the No. 1 seed and will play the winner of Wednedsay's first quarterfinal game between No. 4 Lenape and No. 5 Old Tappan on Friday night in Toms River.

"Our expectations for this team are very high," Masonius said. "Nobody expected us to get to this point, or maybe even come close to this point. But we believed the whole time that we were going to get here. We've just been fighting all year and we're going to keep fighting to do as best we can because we believe we can do it."

 

Box Score

Manasquan 68, High Point 43

1 2 3 4 F
High Point (26-5) 7 10 12 14 43
Manasquan (26-6) 21 17 19 11 68

 

High Point (43): Layla Halloran 1 0-0 3, Trisha Peterson 0 0-0 0, Maddy Smith 5 6-8 17, Margo Peterson 5 4-4 15, Casey Lagenbach 0 0-0 0, Emily Mulvoy 1 2-4 4, Emma Cawley 0 0-0 0, Alexis Sisco 1 0-0 2, Dakota Voitcu 0 0-0 0, Lori Tallamy 0 0-0 0, Kate Morris 0 0-0 0, Keely McGregor 0 0-0 0, Melissa Sisco 0 0-0 0, Michaela McKernan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 12-16 43

Three-pointers: Halloran, Smith, Peterson

Manasquan (68): Stella Clark 8 0-0 20, Dara Mabrey 5 3-3 15, Faith Masonius 7 4-4 18, Addie Masonisu 0 5-5 5, Carly Geissler 2 0-0 4, Nikki Stevens 1 0-0 2, Maggie Kelly 1 0-0 2, Kathryn Mahon 0 0-0 0, Annie Heenan 0 0-0 0, Elana Hart 0 0-0 0, Jackie Kurtz 1 0-0 2, Erin Howard 0 0-0 0, Emma McMenaman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 12-12 68

Three-pointers: Clark 4, Mabrey 2