BELMAR – Here’s a multiple choice question.

When used in regard to St. Rose, the word "depth" best applies to…

  1. The range exhibited by its long-distance shooters.
  2. Length offered from a talented bench.
  3. Volume of reliable assets capable of inflicting offensive damage.
  4. The luxury to change defenses on the fly.
  5. All the above.

If five was your answer, give yourself a gold star. You're in good company.

St. Rose certainly earned one Friday night, displaying its versatility in a variety of fashions, most notably during a whirlwind, second-half run that best embodied all that makes the Purple Roses an absolute handful to solve and neutralize.

The Roses, No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Girls Basketball Top 10, spread the offensive wealth with key contributions from a newcomer to Belmar and a veteran reminded of the importance inherited by seniors being counted on in big situations. Yet, while the timely offerings of junior transfer Makayla Andrews coming off the bench and proven 3-point specialist Maggie Stapleton were meaningful, so too, was St. Rose having the confidence to scrap their man-to-man in favor of a 1-3-1 zone.

The defensive switch stole momentum from the clutches of No. 4 Manasquan and was instituted by the Purple Roses within a masterful stretch that spanned over eight minutes bridging the final two quarters and emphatically thrust St. Rose to a 57-46 triumph over its neighboring rival before a raucous sellout crowd.

The Purple Roses trailed, 28-23, following a steal and layup by Manasquan senior guard Lola Mullaney, who ended with a game-high 19 points, but responded in their usual fashion that's responsible for carving out a spotless 18-0 record, including 12-0 in the grueling A Central.

Stapleton triggered the start of a blistering 16-0 run with her second 3-pointer in less than a minute and Andrews, who got her first taste of the Shore's marquee rivalry, embracing the limelight by supplying seven of her 13 points to the defining surge.

After back-to-back drives by junior Brynn Farrell staked the Roses to a 30-28 lead, Andrews followed with a piercing layup and persistence on the offensive glass to stick back a rebound that increased the margin to 34-28 heading to the fourth.

She continued the onslaught with a subtle ball fake on her path to the rim for a bucket, part of a three-point play, and senior guard Lauren Lithgow, back after one-game absence to nurse a tender left ankle, drove off the left wing to cap the eruption that gave the host a 39-28 with 5:31 remaining in game.

"We all had to pitch in," said Andrews, a tranfer from Neptune who wasn't eligible yet when the two sides met on Jan. 8 in Manasquan, a 52-36 victory for the Roses. "They were playing some heavy defense on our top scorers (Farrell and Lithgow), so we had to make the extra pass, make shots and all play together as a team. It felt great to be on this court with this atmosphere. The school came out and supported us."

While the extended uprising featured four different scorers, the resistance on the opposite end was five hard-working piece, accentuating their defensive traits while galvinized within the 1-3-1.

Farrell thrived at the top of the scheme, distracting with the length of her 5-11 frame and senior defensive stalwart Sam Mikos covered the baseline with endelss zest. In between them, Andrews, Lithgow and sophomore point guard Abby Antognoli combined well-executed traps with disruptive presence in the passing lanes that silenced Manasquan for the body of the second half.

"Defense is a big thing that we push," said Mikos. "We have five people who can score but it's our defense that leads to those fast-break points we're always looking to create.".

The Warriors could muster just seven field goals following intermission and felt the wrath of St. Rose on the boards.

"I love playing on the top of the 1-3-1 and being so active," said Farrell, who deserved as much praise for hounding the ball and denying Manasqan's ability to find seams as she did for her 13 points. "Defense is something I continue to improve on."

Antognoli, who gave St. Rose reliable direction and ball handling as she weaved through Manasquan's 2-3 zone, pumped in 11 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth to preserve a comfortbalble lead.

"It's amazing to know each teammate can pick us up," Antognoli said. "Doesn’t matter who scores. It’s a team effort. We had to switch up our defense, know where Lola was deep in corner and have the opposite side help on (senior swing) Faith (Masonius)."

Masonius scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 13 rebounds.

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