MANASQUAN - Manasquan senior Devin Jensen expected he would have to carry a larger share of the load this season as his team's only returning starter from a year ago, but the task for he and his less experienced teammates has been a little tougher than expected thanks to a injuries to two key players.

The Warriors, however, have shown that given a little time, they can adjust.

Jensen did his part Friday with 33 points and Manasquan - the No. 10 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - pulled away over the final 11 minutes to beat Long Branch, 65-45. The loss snapped Long Branch's nine-game winning streak.

"It just is what it is," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said of his team's injury bug. "It's part of the game. I was talking to one coach the other night, he had three starters out and went and played another team who had three starters out. It's part of the game."

Jensen - the Shore's leading scorer - was coming off a 10-point game on Tuesday in a loss to Red Bank Catholic, which was the first full game Manasquan played without junior starting point guard Ryan Flanagan. Flanagan injured his foot on Saturday, which was also the first game back for senior guard Brian Paturzo after Paturzo injured his ankle in a loss to Long Branch on Dec. 22.

Manasquan senior Devin Jensen. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Manasquan senior Devin Jensen. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

"Coach was telling us the other day that we haven't had an injury in like eight years, so to have two guys go down is tough," Jensen said. "Brian's come back and he's looking good, so we're just working through it."

For the first 21 minutes, Long Branch held down the Manasquan offense enough and beat the Warriors defense with dribble penetration and offensive rebounds. An 8-0 run pulled the Green Wave even at 35 with 3:23 left in the third quarter and to that point, Jensen had scored 16 points with just one in the third quarter.

The tide turned after a Manasquan timeout. Senior Tyler Hobbie - who handed out eight assists to go with his five points - drove for a quick basket out of the timeout to give Manasquan back a lead it would not relinquish. Jensen then scored off an inbound pass from Hobbie and buried a long three-pointer to stretch the lead to 42-35. The run inched to 8-0 by the end of the third quarter and ballooned to 20-2 and a 55-37 Warriors lead by the midway point of the fourth.

Jensen scored more than half of his points (17) over the final 11 minutes of play to help Manasquan close it out. The senior also grabbed six rebounds.

"We talked about me taking better shots," Jensen said. "That was my focus tonight. Other than that, nothing too different."

With Flanagan out, Paturzo, Hobbie, senior Seamus Hogan, sophomore Brad McCabe and junior Justin Gladden picked up their play to help the Warriors avenge a 66-63 loss to the Green Wave in December. Hogan had 8 points and six rebounds, Paturzo added six points, six rebounds and five assists and McCabe grabbed 10 rebounds.

Making his first start, Gladden also gave the Warriors a jolt with seven points and five rebounds. He score Manasquan's first four points of the game, assisted Manasquan's first basket of the second half by Paturzo and scored on the next possession.

"He's been practicing his tail off and he deserves it," Bilodeau said. "He brings a lot of things we're lacking like energy, quickness and athleticism. He's a good kid, he busts his rear end and we needed to send a message to everybody that if you work hard every day, that's what you get."

Senior Cascius Briggs led Long Branch with 14 points and sophomore Marc Dennis added 12 in the loss. Junior Tyree Morris also scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half for Long Branch, which trailed 28-24 at halftime.

As the Warriors go forward without Flanagan, possibly for an extended period of time, they have shown that while both injuries to Paturzo and Flanagan have slowed them momentarily, they have been able to overcome. Now the Warriors will try to wrap up the Class B North title over their final four divisional games, three of which are against the bottom three teams in the standings - Wall, Middletown South and Monmouth. Manasquan will also travel to play Middletown North in a crucial game on Feb. 7.

"It's been very difficult transitioning without Brian and then we finally get him back and we lose our point guard, Ryan Flanagan," Bilodeau said. "It's been a juggling act, but I thought we did a better job (today) - it's only our second or third game without Flanagan - of getting the table set again and figuring out how we're going to play without him."


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