The Shore Daily, 3/24/15
Follow Scott Stump on Twitter for news and notes from around the Shore.
Reminder: There are still two basketball games left this season, so come out and support the Shore's best at Wednesday's Senior All-Star Games at Wall. The girls game is at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:45 p.m.
The girls NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final showdown between Manasquan and St. Rose completely lived up to the hype on Monday night, with the Warriors pulling out a 59-55 thriller behind a closing performance for the ages by senior Marina Mabrey in one of the most exciting TOC finals in its 26-year history.
Mabrey made sure there would be no other script than the one that ended with the Warriors winning their second TOC title and first since 2012 by rattling off Manasquan's last 13 points of the game to finish with 36 in one of the best performances in TOC final history. She strapped to the team to her back and took them home in the type of game that gets the word "legendary" put before your name once you've been out of high school for a while.
With two TOC titles on her resume, more than 2,500 career points, a McDonald's All-American selection and a Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year honor, Mabrey's career begs the question: Is she the best Shore Conference girls basketball player of all time?
I always thought I would never see another player as good as the late Audrey Gomez, who dominated for St. John Vianney as a point guard in the late '80s/early '90s. Her sister, Erica Gomez, also was a tremendous player, and both of them went on to play in the Pac-10.
I think Mabrey is right in that discussion as the G.O.A.T. because of how complete her game is. She can score from anywhere on the floor, she shoots a high percentage from the field and the foul line, she is a good passer and an excellent rebounder, and she has played the role of defensive stopper against several top opponents this season.
She also played in four TOCs in her four years, winning two. When comparing her to older sister Michaela, who had an amazing career of her own in which she too was a 2,000-point scorer, McDonald's All-American and Gatorade NJ Player of the Year, I think of Michaela as more of a tremendous shooter, which is her role now at Notre Dame, while Marina does it all.
I was too young to see Manasquan legend and current ESPN analyst Doris Burke play in the early 1980s before she went on to become a Hall of Famer at Providence, and Rumson superstar Virginia Sourlis was also before my time. However, I don't think girls basketball was as evolved then as it is now. Back then, it was still mainly an extracurricular activity for most girls, not a year-round pursuit with scholarships on the line like it is now.
I think the quality of play is tougher, so to put up similar or better numbers than those 1980s legends says a lot, although back then they didn't have the 3-point line so those players could have technically put up bigger stats. Also, don't forget that Mabrey sat out 30 days last year after transferring from Point Beach back to Manasquan. She might've made a run at about 2,800+ career points.
Regardless, I think Mabrey has to be considered among the top two or three players all-time from the Shore given the combination of individual and team success.
There was a funny moment during the postgame interviews at the table when Mabrey made a roundabout analogy that the game against St. Rose was like a treadmill with both teams running on it, and Manasquan was going to keep running until St. Rose finally fell off the treadmill. Head coach Lisa Kukoda could only shake her head with the, "What is she talking about?" smile on her face while her teammates laughed.
"There's a video,'' sophomore center Victoria Galvan joked to reporters. "We'll send you a link."
As for St. Rose, the Purple Roses played their hearts out and gave Manasquan all it could handle after losing 69-60 to the Warriors in the Shore Conference Tournament final. Senior Jess Louro had a black eye in the postgame interviews and also had a bloody nose after getting hit during the game. She left it all on the floor with 20 points and 7 rebounds, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:20 left. The loss concluded her great career and that of good friend Kat Phipps, another Division I recruit.
Coach Joe Whalen's wrinkle of having freshman forward Elizabeth Marsicano play the point-forward role and bring the ball up to draw Galvan away from the basket was a curveball that allowed St. Rose to get into a nice offensive groove from the start. Marsicano showed just how versatile her game is while playing on a stage that intimidates seniors, let alone freshmen. She had 11 points and five assists and really impacted the game.
As for whether these teams can make it back to Sun National Bank Center next season, that depends on the progression of their young cores. Obviously graduating Mabrey is impossible to replace for Manasquan, and senior guard Courtney Hagaman has been a steady presence for several seasons, but the Warriors bring back Galvan, freshman guard Dara Mabrey, junior guard Gillian Black, and sophomore guards Stella Clark and Addie Masonius. Also, they bring in Masonius' younger sister, current eighth-grader Faith Masonius, who looks to be the next major star in the pipeline for the Warriors.
St. Rose loses the star tandem of Louro and Phipps but brings back Marsicano, sophomore guard Jen Louro, freshman guard Makayla Markham and sophomore guard Ellyn Stoll. There is still plenty of talent to work with, plus I'm sure there's another wave of it on the way in next year's freshman class.
As for the boys final, it was pretty boring compared to the excitement of the girls game. Roselle Catholic won its second TOC in three seasons by beating Pope John XXIII 57-45 in a rock fight in which the teams combined to shoot 3-for-28 from 3-point range. Isaiah Briscoe did his thing with 27 points in his last game before he moves on to the NBA factory at Kentucky, and freshman Nazreon Reid of Asbury Park served notice that he could be the next huge star in New Jersey basketball.
I think Reid has the most upside of anyone on that loaded Roselle Catholic team. I would not be surprised to see him develop into a Karl Towns-level, versatile big man who can score from all over the floor and defend multiple positions. He seems to be able to handle all the hype surrounding him as one of the nation's top players in the current freshman class, so the sky is the limit if he continues to improve. He has NBA lottery pick potential, but it's still a long way from here to there.
The continually growing Shore contingent headed to Montclair State has added another standout in Middletown North WR/DB Jordan Pitts, an All-Class A North pick who had 49 catches for 498 yards and four touchdowns for the Lions.
In coaching news, Asbury Park did not re-hire Bill Hill after one season in which the Blue Bishops went 2-8 this fall. Assistant Tim Fosque, who has been a coach on several of the championship Blue Bishops' teams since 2007, is up for Board of Education approval tonight as the new head man.
More on Tuesday:
- Looks like Freehold Township/Monmouth U grad Brad Brach has secured his spot in the Orioles' bullpen this spring.
- Oakland A's pitcher Jesse Hahn plays with the inspiration of his 34-year-old sister with cerebral palsy.
- This artist with amnesia can't remember anything from five minutes ago but still creates beautiful pieces.
On tap for tonight: Nothing tonight, but tomorrow night marks the boys and girls Senior All-Star Games at Wall at 6 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., so get your last fill of basketball in before it's gone until December.
I'll end with the sad Villanova piccolo player and her appearance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Her tears at least scored her some Taylor Swift tickets.