TOMS RIVER - A matter of minutes after scoring the 1,000th point of his high school career, Mater Dei Prep senior Elijah Barnes was reflective about the achievement and all of the stops he has made along the way.

Prior to Barnes' milestone basket in the final minute of Mater Dei's 80-55 win over Manasquan in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday, another Monmouth County native and potential 1,000-point scorer who landed at Mater Dei for his junior season stole the show.

Elijjah Barnes (31) celebrates his 1,000th point with his Mater Dei teammates. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Elijjah Barnes (31) celebrates his 1,000th point with his Mater Dei teammates. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Junior Kyle Cardaci scored a game-high 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting from behind the three-point line and the Seraphs blew open a close game in the third quarter to beat the Warriors and advance to the SCT semifinals for the second straight season.

Cardaci began his career at Holmdel, where he was a two-year starter and averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore. After sitting out Mater Dei's first 12 games, the junior has jumped right into the starting lineup as a knockdown shooter to complement Barnes and junior point guard Kenny Jones.

"I love this atmosphere," Cardaci said. "This is why I came to Mater Dei: to play in games like this. I felt comfortable and ready to play."

Sunday, Cardaci came out firing and scored Mater Dei's first 11 points and later score nine in the third quarter to help the Seraphs separate from the Warriors.

Mater Dei jumped out to a 14-2 lead, but Manasquan hung around and cut its deficit to 32-28 by halftime. Warriors senior Devin Jensen hit a jumper and a three-pointer to open the third quarter and give Manasquan its first lead of the game at 33-32. It would, however, be the only lead Manasquan would hold and it lasted only a matter of seconds.

Barnes canned a three-pointer from the left wing to put the Seraphs back in front, which was the first basket in a 12-0 run that catapulted Mater Dei to a 44-33 lead.

"They changed their defense to try to show us a different look," Mater Dei coach Ben Gamble said. "We took some shots that weren't very good, but we kept working on both sides of the floor until we started to do a better job.

"I'm proud of my guys. This is a really big win for us because I have a lot of respect for Manasquan. I hadn't really watched them until I saw the matchups and I was really impressed. They are a very good, very well-coached team."

After Mater Dei stretched its lead to 16 early in the fourth quarter, Jensen buried another jumper and three-pointer on consecutive possessions to pull Manasquan within 61-50. Mater Dei, however, answered with 10 straight, with Jones scoring five of the 10.

Barnes then capped the game by banking in a three-pointer with 25 seconds left to reach the 1,000-point plateau. After starting his career with Freehold Borough, moving to Central Regional and finally landing at Mater Dei, Barnes reached a milestone with a lot of memories on his mind.

Mater Dei senior Elijah Barnes fires up the three that put him in the 1,000-point club. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Mater Dei senior Elijah Barnes fires up the three that put him in the 1,000-point club. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

"It means a lot because I did it with a whole bunch of different kids and different friends," said Barnes, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. "They are all places that I hold dear to my heart. I was great to get it for me and my family."

Gamble left Barnes in the game to try to hit the milestone ahead of the semifinals on Tuesday despite the fact that the Seraphs had all but wrapped up the game.

"I heard some people saying something about him shooting at the end, but they probably just didn't know what was going on," Gamble said. "I wanted him to get it tonight, to get it over with, let him celebrate, and move on to the next game."

"With about two minutes to go, (Gamble) said to me, 'You've got five (points) left. Go get,'" Barnes said.

Jones backed up Cardaci with 19 points and 10 assists and junior Yasin Pretlow poured in 10 points.

Jensen finished with 20 points, while sophomore Brad McCabe led Manasquan with 21 points.

Mater Dei will look to continue their SCT title defense when the Seraphs play No. 5 Toms River North Tuesday at Pine Belt Arena in the first game of the semifinal double-header. Mater Dei beat Toms River North in last year's semifinals, 62-50.


Box Score

Mater Dei Prep 80, Manasquan 55

Manasquan (16-9)1315141355
Mater Dei Prep (22-3)2210242480

Manasquan (55): Brian Paturzo 2 4-6 8, Tyler Hobbie 1 0-0 3, Seamus Hogan 0 0-0 0, Brad McCabe 8 1-3 21, Devin Jensen 7 2-4 20, Ryan Flanagan 0 0-0 0, Justin Gladden 0 0-0 0, Emilio Stevenson 0 0-0 0, Zander Korolik 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 7-13 55

Three-pointers: Hobbie, McCabe 4, Jensen 3, Stevenson

Mater Dei (80): Kenny Jones 6 5-5 19, Kyle Cardaci 8 1-1 23, Adam Afifi 2 1-2 5, Elijah Barnes 7 1-3 17, Elijah Mitchell 1 2-2 4, Yasin Pretlow 4 0-0 10, Marvin Pierre 0 2-2 2, Brandon Wilson 0 0-0 0, Rajae Muhammed 0 0-0 0, Kyle Devaney 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 12-15 80

Three-pointers: Jones 2, Cardaci 6, Barnes 2, Pretlow 2


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