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*Note: Tonight’s boys SCT semifinals at 6 p.m. (CBA-TR North) and 7:45 p.m. (Neptune-RFH) will be broadcast live on the radio on 1310 a.m. and 1160 a.m., and the audio will be streaming online right here on

The girls basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals pretty much went as expected, with top-seeded St. Rose handling Middletown South, and Manasquan and St. John Vianney battling it out until the end as the defending champion Warriors advanced to their second straight championship game.

Undefeated St. Rose was too much for Middletown South in a 69-49 win in the first game behind 24 points from senior guard Kat Phipps. She was unconscious in the first half, swishing her first five 3-point attempts on her way to 6-for-8 shooting from downtown and 20 points in the first half alone. Her release is one of the quickest I have seen in recent seasons on the boys or girls side.

She makes 500 jumpers before every St. Rose practice to hone her shot and her fast release. That's the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that people don't see that separates the average player from the scholarship player, as Phipps is headed to St. Francis (N.Y.). I always see all these athletes on Twitter talking about the hard work they put in and their tough workouts, yet you go to the games and they aren't any better. They're talking about it instead of actually doing it. Phipps puts in the time without saying a word and lets her work show on the court.

The most impressive things about St. Rose are its depth and teamwork. The Purple Roses have seven or so players who can knock down shots and hurt teams. Sophomore guard Jen Louro was the latest in dropping in a career-high 19 points last night. The other is that they share the ball. It rotates on the perimeter like something out of an Atlanta Hawks or San Antonio Spurs game without touching the floor until they find an open shooter. That is a tough combination to defend.

As for Manasquan's 53-48 win over St. John Vianney, it's always great when those two play just because of the intensity. They are going hard all 32 minutes with no let-up. Manasquan looked like they might blow them out in the first quarter, but the Lancers fought them the entire way.

Warriors senior Marina Mabrey is definitely one of the most polarizing players in the Shore. The Notre Dame recruit is undeniably talented. She makes difficult finishes at the rim and deep contested shots look easy. She plays physical basketball that is lauded by some as playing with the type of competitive edge that coaches love and criticized by others as borderline dirty.

Her frequent expression is one of exasperation, and when you are one of the best players in the country, all eyes are going to be on you from the opening whistle. Some interpret that demeanor as immaturity when it comes to bad calls by officials or rough play by opponents, and others see it as the competitive drive for perfection that has propelled her to become a McDonald's All-American. At one point last night, some students sitting behind me joked with her that she should smile more and have fun because basketball is fun, but she was having none of it. Regardless of how fans, coaches and opponents feel about her positively or negatively, she will go down as one of the great players in Shore Conference history.

Courtney Hagaman (in white) and Manasquan rose to the occasion to advance to their third SCT final in four seasons. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

She played through foul trouble to finish with 22 points and 8 rebounds, and senior guard Courtney Hagaman stepped up with some big plays to stabilize things when Mabrey got hit with her fourth foul midway through the third quarter. Hagaman did exactly what senior leaders are supposed to do, which is calm everybody down and reassure them "we got this," and then go out and make a play, like her corner 3-pointer, to back it up.

Plus, even Manasquan's younger players have been through the fire. Stella Clark, whose clutch free throws in the final seconds iced the win, may only be a sophomore, but she played heavy minutes last season on a team that won the SCT and Group II titles and reached the Tournament of Champions final.

As for the Lancers, I was definitely impressed with junior Kelly Campbell, who is committed to DePaul. She does it all - scoring, rebounding, and passing. She did everything she could to keep them in that game and they came up just short. The Lancers have a formidable obstacle in their way in Non-Public A in Immaculate Heart Academy, but there is a chance there could be a fourth meeting with the Warriors in the TOC.

Now it will be St. Rose-Manasquan for all the marbles on Friday at Monmouth University for the third time in four seasons. St. Rose won the title in 2012, and Manasquan claimed it last season, so this is the rubber match. It's definitely one of the more anticipated girls finals in recent years given that the teams are ranked 1-2 in New Jersey and No. 14 and No. 22 in the nation. It doesn't get better than that. Be there for the 6:30 tip-off on Friday.

As for the boys semifinals tonight at Brookdale, Matt Manley has his preview and picks. I envision that after all this talk of parity and a wild tournament, we will have the most traditional final match-up of them all, CBA vs. Neptune, on Friday at Monmouth. We'll have full coverage of both games and a wrap-up right here tomorrow.


The Region VI Tournament gets underway tonight at Pine Belt Arena with the pre-quarterfinal round. Bob Badders has the schedule and a full breakdown of each weight class.


Lakewood junior Amir Tyler is now up to three FBS offers as he added one from Old Dominion on Tuesday as a running back to ones from Temple and Pittsburgh, according to Piners coach L.J. Clark.

In commitment news, Toms River North senior defensive lineman Adam Kakar, a four-year starter and All-Class A South pick, will play a post-graduate season at Milford Academy, according to Mariners coach Dave Oizerowitz.

More on Wednesday:

  • Former St. Rose star Chris Napolitano has been named the MAAC Pitcher of the Week for Marist after throwing 8.1 scoreless innings on 104 pitches out of the bullpen in a 15-inning loss to the No. 1 team in the country, the University of Virginia. The player who scored the winning run in the bottom of the 15th was former Jackson Memorial star Matt Thaiss, who is a sophomore with the Cavaliers.
  • Former St. John Vianney star Mike Balkovic is finishing strong in a great basketball career at Caldwell College. Jackson Memorial grad Brian Kenny has also become a solid contributor for Caldwell.
  • Point Beach grad Jordan Wejnert, the older brother of Southern junior Peyton Wejnert, was honored as the first-ever Georgian Court men's basketball graduating senior. Georgian Court used to be an all-women's college.
  • A girls basketball team in New York City won a playoff game 117-8 last night.
  • A guy caught a 280-pound catfish with a rod and reel. (Must-see photo).
  • Paterson Eastside boys basketball was awarded the Passaic County Tournament title after it was determined that Paterson Kennedy had a suspended player on the bench during its semifinal win.
  • Wild police dash-cam footage of a home exploding in Stafford Township from a gas leak.
  • University of Utah women's gymnastics draws bigger crowds than UConn and Tennessee women's basketball, the WNBA and all but 18 Division I men's basketball teams last year. The athletic director quoted in that story, Chris Hill, is actually a CBA graduate who grew up in Lakewood.
  • Former St. Joseph's-Metuchen star Karl-Anthony Towns could potentially be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft out of Kentucky.
  • A bill could ban tobacco from all baseball fields in California, including the professional stadiums.
  • Real good, Carolina Panthers. Nice humanity.
  • A Kickstarter fund for a smart watch has raised $9 million in less than 24 hours.
  • A tight end at Oregon has gone from nearly having his leg amputated to rebuilding his career.
  • Further proof that Manny Pacquiao essentially runs the Philippines. A guy made a joke that the 5-foot-6 Pacquiao is no professional basketball player and got kicked out of the Philippine Basketball Association.
  • A British teen fell 1,600 feet off a cliff at a ski resort because he was trying to take a selfie.

On tap for tonight: As mentioned above, tonight is the boys basketball Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the Region VI wrestling pre-quarterfinals.

I'll end with Trent Harris. Back when he was one year old, he used to play small indie rock joints for the true fans, but now he's sold out and gone to big venues like singing the national anthem at Southern basketball games as a 2-year-old. Trent is the son of former Southern and Rutgers star Clark Harris, the veteran long-snapper for the Cincinnati Bengals, and he sang the national anthem before last night's game. And yes, it's adorable.