Girls Basketball – RBC Starts Fast, Finishes Strong in Win Over No. 1 Manasquan
RED BANK - Red Bank Catholic seniors Katie Rice and Rose Caverly have been part of five losses to Manasquan during their four-year varsity basketball careers and in order to close out the Warriors - the No. 1 team in N.J. heading into Tuesday - the Caseys had to be at the best from the opening tip.
Red Bank Catholic shot the lights out in the first half and locked down on defense in the fourth quarter Tuesday and finally beat Manasquan, 62-57, for the first time since December of 2013. The win snapped a seven-game winning streak by Manasquan in the head-to-head series.
"It's just so nice, because we've never beaten them since we've been here," Caverly said. "They are really the only team we haven't beaten and this maybe was our last time playing them, so we just had to come out and leave everything out on the floor and I think we did that."
"For our seniors, they have worked very, very hard and from start to finish, have made themselves really good players," Red Bank Catholic coach Joe Montano said. "For them to have something on their home court that they can talk about going forward makes you feel good."
PHOTO GALLERY: Manasquan at RBC Gallery by Paula Lopez
It took a first-half three-point barrage for Red Bank Catholic to jump out to a double-digit first-quarter lead and some stifling defense to pull out the win in the final two minutes. The Caseys shot 7-for-12 from three-point range in the first half, including 4-for-5 during an 18-7 start to the game.
"We don't have the size, so we can't pound it inside," Montano said. "We've got to be able to make shots and we've got to be able to make three-point shots."
Red Bank Catholic attempted just one three-pointer in the second half, which freshman Sophie Sabino hit in the third quarter, but the defense carried the Caseys to the finish line. RBC held the Warriors to 10 points and two field goals in the final quarter and came up with stops on its last five defensive possessions.
Sabino finished with a team-high 20 points and went 8-for-9 from the free-throw line in the second half, including 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
"She is the most talented freshman I've seen in a really long time and she's also the biggest sweetheart you will ever meet," Rice said of Sabino. "I'm just so happy for her that she was able to do what she did tonight."
The Caseys scored their final eight points from the free-throw line, including the go-ahead foul shots by Caverly with 58.7 seconds left.
Senior Haley Moore hit a pair of free throws to cut Manasquan's lead to 57-56 and sophomore Fab Eggenschwiler ended the ensuing Warriors possession with a blocked shot.
After Caverly's free throws and a timeout, Manasquan drew up a designed play for junior Lola Mullaney, who's floater just missed the mark. Sabino then hit a pair of free throws with 26.3 seconds left and Mullaney and senior Dara Mabrey missed three pointers on the other end before a pair of Rice free throws put the game on ice.
"We weren't five girls out there - we were one unit," Caverly said. "I think that was the first time this year that everybody bought in and did what they were supposed to do for the entire game."
Mabrey and junior Faith Masonius - who announced her non-binding verbal commitment to play at the University of Maryland on Monday - combined for 47 of Manasquan's 57 points, with Mabrey pouring in 29 on 10-for-18 shooting after starting 9-for-12 through three quarters.
Masonius, meanwhile, scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Mullaney scored eight of the remaining 10 points, which resembled the first meeting between the B North rivals, when the trio scored 56 of the team's 60 points.
Mabrey, Masonius and Mullaney each scored to get Manasquan a 57-54 lead late in the fourth quarter before the Caseys closed it out with their eight straight points from the line and solid defense.
"Stay head strong, don't make any dumb turnovers and play good defense," Rice said of the mentality over the final two minutes. "Dara and Faith are two incredible players - I give them all the credit in the world. They worked their butts off and we just had to shut them down and play great team defense at the end and that's what we did."
The difference between that first 60-37 Manasquan win and Tuesday was RBC's balanced offense, which produced an 8-for-13 shooting performance from beyond the three-point line. Sabino hit two threes in the first quarter, during which RBC outscored Manasquan 18-10. Junior Julia Setaro also hit three of her four three-point attempts in the first half.
"You take the first two quarters of the Manasquan (loss) and the first quarter of the (St. John) Vianney loss (on Saturday, and the numbers we scary," Montano said. "We got outscored (47-11) and if you take those out, we played those teams pretty evenly. So the message tonight was to play all 32 minutes and I thought that was the difference. That, plus our young players - Jules (Setaro), Fab and Soph (Sabino) - they really grew up tonight."
Rice finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, including a driving layup to end the third quarter and a go-ahead jumper in the fourth quarter to give RBC a 52-51 lead. Caverly added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win.
Last year, Manasquan and Red Bank Catholic played two competitive regular-season games, including a one-point game at Manasquan that the Warriors won on a shot by Mullaney at the buzzer. The two rivals met again in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinals and Manasquan overwhelmed the Caseys, 74-45, to advance to the T of C final.
"As freshmen and sophomores, we didn't have the confidence to beat (Manasquan) and last year, playing them close built up our confidence," Caverly said. "Our first game this year, we didn't come out strong at all. This time, we were like, 'Guys, this is our game to win.'"
The first regular-season game of this season had a similar ring to it, as Manasquan started the game by outscoring RBC, 30-9, in the first half.
Red Bank Catholic had a similar start in a loss to St. John Vianney - currently the No. 2 team in the state - on Saturday, when the Caseys fell behind 17-2 in the first quarter. RBC rallied to within single digits and ultimately fell, 47-40.
"We always play better at home and we just knew that this was our chance," Rice said. "We can't lose two in a row, so we just came together as a team and got it done."