Marina Mabrey Pours in 36 Points to Lead Manasquan to Tournament of Champions Title
TRENTON - A valiant effort by St. Rose, a seesaw game that came down to the final minute on Monday night, it was all a prelude to a simple, immutable fact: Marina Mabrey was not going to let Manasquan be denied an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title.
The Notre Dame-bound senior capped a legendary high school career by scoring the final 13 points of the game for the Warriors to finish with 36 points along with 12 rebounds that powered a thrilling 59-55 victory over the Purple Roses at Sun National Bank Center. In the final 20 seconds of the game, the McDonald's All-American and Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year came up with a huge block on defense with her team leading by two points and then iced the win with a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining that made it a two-possession game.
That completed a 26-point second half for a player who finished with more than 2,500 career points and won her second TOC title after being part of the 2012 title team as a freshman that starred her older sister, current Notre Dame junior guard Michaela Mabrey.
"We accomplished our goal, so I don't have to say we tried our best, this and that,'' Mabrey said. "We did it. We got where we wanted to get."
"My thought was that if we held her under 30, we'd be OK, so we were off by six and we lost by four,'' St. Rose coach Joe Whalen said.
Manasquan (29-4) defeated St. Rose (32-2) for the second time in three meetings this season and became the first girls public school program from the Shore Conference to win multiple TOC titles.The Warriors also became the only other girls public school program in state history to win more than one TOC title besides Shabazz, the team that beat them in last season's final and left them hungry to finish the job for their second TOC title in program history.
"It's amazing that we got this far, and I'm just excited how hard everyone played,'' said senior guard Courtney Hagaman, who had a crucial steal down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Mabrey was a driving force, declaring from the preseason that it was a TOC title or bust.
"I could put that much pressure on them because they could handle it,'' Mabrey said.
"I think that obviously she had the expectation, and I don't think it was just her,'' Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said. "I think all of them, after losing in this game last year, being in that we were up here talking, Shabazz was watching us, I think that we kind of left last season with a little bit of a sour taste in our mouth. I think everybody had that mentality, and she just really pushed it out of everybody and was kind of the driving force behind the season. I think it raised everybody to the next level."
Mabrey set the stage for her fourth-quarter heroics by ending the third quarter with a stepback 3-pointer at the buzzer that cut St. Rose's lead to 42-40.
"I knew we needed something to get our momentum going,'' she said. "I told them that we're going to finish this third quarter up, and we're going to get there. We're going to catch up to them, and then we're going to put them away."
A pair of free throws by sophomore guard Stella Clark (7 points) tied the game at 42 eight seconds into the fourth quarter, setting up a furious finish. A basket in the lane by Mabrey's younger sister, freshman Dara Mabrey, helped the Warriors inch out to a 46-42 lead, but St. Rose senior Jess Louro, who concluded her own brilliant career with 20 points and seven rebounds, buried a 3-pointer to bring it back to a one-point game.
Louro then made a steal and took it in for a lay-up to give St. Rose a 47-46 lead, which they maintained until Mabrey scored and was fouled to swing it back in Manasquan's favor at 50-49 with 3:17 to go. A 3-point play by Mabrey made it a two-possession game at 53-49, but once again, St. Rose was not going down without a fight. Louro's younger sister, sophomore Jen Louro, nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to a point as part of a 14-point night on 5-for-6 shooting.
Manasquan responded with a pair of free throws by Mabrey, but Jess Louro then had the crowd roaring when she splashed in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 55 with 1:20 remaining. The Warriors quickly regrouped, executing their ensuing offensive set to get what proved to be the game-winning lay-up by Mabrey off a dish by sophomore center Victoria Galvin on a backdoor cut with 50 seconds left in the game.
"I think that there wasn't that panic..and I think that's why we were able to execute,'' Kukoda said. "I think that's that mental toughness that I was referring to. We were able to move on, next play and just run and execute what we wanted to."
St. Rose had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Mabrey would not let it happen. Purple Roses' senior guard Kat Phipps got separation on her defender on a screen by Marsicano and got into the lane, but Mabrey came over on a rotation and stuck out her left arm to block her shot before corralling the loose ball. That led to a pair of free throws that she buried with 19 seconds to go that sealed the victory. The block was a potentially risky play because Phipps is automatic at the foul line, but Mabrey pulled it off.
"I wasn't really thinking about it,'' Mabrey said about the block. "I just saw, 'Oh I'm there, she's about to shoot it, so my hand, I'm putting it up and hopefully I get it."
"Luckily her instincts benefit us,'' Kukoda said. "I don't think there's a lot of thought at times. A lot of times it's instinct."
After losing 69-60 to Manasquan in a Shore Conference Tournament final that the Warriors controlled most of the way, St. Rose came back with a gameplan that sent the game down to the wire. Whalen took 6-foot freshman Elizabeth Marsicano and had her run the point at times and play on the perimeter in order to bring Galvan out of the paint to have to guard her, which opened up driving lanes. Marsicano was outstanding on the big stage with 11 points and five assists.
"We didn't ask her, we told her,'' Whalen joked about the adjustment. "She did a great job, and we knew she was capable of that."
"We knew that they were going to do something,'' Kukoda said. "It was just a matter of what it was going to be. It definitely threw us for a loop, and we had to adjust. I think that we were able to, and when we D'ed it up the way that we wanted to and got the rotations that we needed, we got the deflections and the steals.
"It definitely pulled Victoria out a little bit, out of the paint where she's normally comfortable. She's not used to getting through screens - normally she's helping on the screens. We definitely had to make the adjustment in the game. I think we did a good job of it down the stretch when we needed to."
St. Rose led 27-25 at the half thanks to nine points by Jen Louro and eight apiece by Jess Louro and Phipps. The Purple Roses held Manasquan to 11-for-32 shooting before the break, including 1-for-11 from 3-point range, with the lone 3-pointer coming when Clark nailed one from long range with two seconds left in the half.
The Warriors regrouped in the third quarter to keep it close, but St. Rose maintained the lead throughout the period thanks to the play of Marsicano, who had seven points in the third. However, Manasquan stuck with it, as Dara Mabrey helped hold St. Rose's leading scorer, Phipps, scoreless in the second half, and Marina Mabrey delivered one of the all-time closing fourth quarters in TOC final history to bring it home against a St. Rose team that has become a fierce rival in recent seasons.
"It's really dirty, it's really nasty, it's really emotional,'' Mabrey said about playing St. Rose. "It's really the team that can stay mentally with it."
Manasquan separated itself as one of only three Shore Conference teams along with St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic to win multiple TOC titles. Mabrey also put herself right in the discussion among the best players in Shore Conference history. After a TOC semifinal win over Franklin, she all but guaranteed a victory, and she backed it up on Monday night with one of the best performances in a final since the TOC's inception in 1989.
"We were going to back it up,'' she said. "It was coming. I know the first half it seemed like we were going to really not get there, but we got there. I kept telling them, there's 1:08 left, there's 49 seconds left, there's 49.8 seconds left, and we're going to stick with it, and we're going to win this. I promise we're going to win this."
Manasquan 59, St. Rose 55
St. Rose (55): Jess Louro 8 2-2 20, Stoll 0 0-0 0, Marsicano 4 2-2 11, Jen Louro 5 2-2 14, Phipps 2 2-2 8, Markham 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 8-10 55.
Manasquan (59): D. Mabrey 2 0-0 4, Clark 2 2-2 7, M. Mabrey 14 7-8 36, Hagaman 1 0-0 2, Galvan 3 1-2 7, Masonius 0 0-0 0, Black 1 0-0 3. Totals: 23 10-12 59.
St. Rose (32-2) 12 15 15 13 - 55
Manasquan (29-4) 14 11 15 19 - 59
Three-pointers: (S) Jess Louro 2, Jen Louro 2, Phipps 2, Marsicano; (M) Clark, M. Mabrey, Black. Fouled out: None.