Boys Basketball – Injuries Not Enough to Stop Manasquan During 4-0 Start
MANASQUAN -- As Manasquan celebrated its first ever NJSIAA Group II championship last March, one of the most exciting aspects of the Warriors' championship run was that none of their top four scorers were seniors.
Nine-plus months later, Manasquan is down to one of those four top scorers, but whether by transfer or injury, the Manasquan program does not spend time lamenting its losses. It just keeps producing players who win.
Four games into the 2023-24 season, Manasquan is 4-0 and its latest victory -- a 57-46 win over College Achieve of Asbury Park on Friday evening on its home floor -- was validation both that Manasquan remains one of the state's top public-school programs and that the Warriors can overcome unexpected adversity.
Two minutes after he drained a three-point attempt for the first points of the game, Manasquan senior Alex Konov was being helped off the floor with an apparent lower body injury and he did not return. Konov and current junior teammate Griffin Linstra tied for third on the team at a shade under seven points per game in 2022-23, trailing First Team All-Shore teammates Darius Adams and Ryan Frauenheim for the team lead.
Adams and Frauenheim were both in the gym on Friday, but neither was suited up. Adams is home from his new school, La Lumiere in Indiana, for Christmas and Frauenheim was on the Manasquan bench, still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered over the summer.
The length of Konov's absence was still undetermined late Friday, but Manasquan did not require an adjustment period. Already acclimated to playing without Frauenheim, Manasquan bumped several players up in the rotation, stormed out to an 18-3 lead through one quarter and never looked back against one of the state's most intriguing teams during the early part of the season.
"From the beginning of the season, we had our leading scorer leave, we had Frauenheim go down and it seems like everyone thinks we're going to have a mediocre team, but we know how to respond," senior guard Luke Roy said. "We play Manasquan basketball and that's what has really carried us. We saw Alex go down and we knew we just had to adjust and just play our game."
With Konov exiting early, Roy came off the bench to score 10 points -- one of four Manasquan players with nine or more. Linstra led the Warriors with 15 points, freshman Rey Weinseimer netted 13, and senior Jason Larned provided an early spark with eight of his nine points in the first half.
"I wouldn't say we're excited when we get the opportunity to play (more)," Larned said of the mindset he and his teammates have when it is time to step into a greater role. "We always prepare, we work hard in practice and everyone just wants to do what they can to help the team, whether it's in practice or in the game. We love Ryan, we love Darius, but we're just all about the team and playing for each other and we do that every single day regardless of who is here or who is missing."
Manasquan piled up a 17-point lead in the second quarter and withstood a push by the Knights that cut the Manasquan lead to seven in the fourth quarter. Junior Jamir Westry hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, but Manasquan had an answer on its possession in between. Larned found Roy open in the right corner for a three that pushed Manasquan's lead to 47-37.
"On Manasquan, we really focus on the team," Roy said. "We know our roles. It may seem like it's a show for just one guy sometimes, but we all give into our roles. I knew I had to step up tonight, the shot was there, and it went in."
Roy has been watching Manasquan basketball for most of his life, including the three years his older brother, Ben, starred for the Warriors as a two-time Shore Sports Network Player of the Year. While Ben was marching toward potential scoring records at Manasquan, Luke was also paying attention to the players around his brother that tied the team together.
When Luke was a sophomore in 2021-22, he was part of a Manasquan team that rallied around one another after Ben suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss his senior season before heading to play at Boston University, where is now a sophomore playing 20 minutes per game.
"Living in the area my whole life, I have had the pleasure of coming to watch Manasquan basketball," Roy said. "In past years, we had Casey Mulligan, Kieran Flanagan; defensive stoppers who might not have taken the most shots in the game, but people don't realize how much impact they have on the game. I know my brother and what he can do, but I see those other guys and I want to be them because I know I can be that for this team."
Linstra was a freshman starter on the 2021-22 team that reached the Shore Conference Tournament final and NJSIAA Group II semifinal with four underclassman starters and sees parallels between that team and this year's squad.
"I feel like this group is very similar to my freshman year so when I step back, I try to think about what that team went through and how close we got over the year. I think it's starting to become very similar to that. The way we have grown together and the intensity we play with and how hard we play and it's starting to show."
With 3:30 left and an eight-point lead on Friday, Manasquan played keep-away in the four corners offense to drain more than two minutes off the clock. The Warriors hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:15 to seal the win.
College Achieve is in its first season and its roster is comprised mostly of transfers from other schools. Westry leads a contingent from Payne Tech and the starting lineup includes 6-foot-9 Keyport transfer Nas Hart and junior Ocean Township transfer Ron Richardson. The senior transfers are yet to become eligible -- a group led by St. Thomas Aquinas transfer Deuce Jones.
The Knights are coached by Dave Boff, who left his job as head boys basketball coach at Roselle Catholic -- where he led the Lions to four NJSIAA Tournament of Champions titles -- to take over the upstart program in Monmouth County.
College Achieve (2-1) is the third one-loss team Manasquan has defeated during its first full week of play. Red Bank and Holmdel are both one-loss teams and the Warriors beat both by an average of 26.5 points.
"We feel like culture wins and it's a great thing that we have built here," Linstra said. "We just have humble, hungry kids who want to play hard, play smart and just win games and find a way to win. Winners win."