Boys Basketball – Manasquan Reaches Sixth Straight Shore Conference Semifinal With Overtime Win Over Toms River North
MIDDLETOWN -- Manasquan senior Jason Larned has been playing most of the last month with an injuried hand, but that did not discourage him from landing some figurative haymakers in a down-to-the-wire, overtime Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal game Saturday at Middletown South High School against a familiar foe.
Larned sparked fast starts in the first and third quarters, dished out five assists and made a big shot down the stretch of regulation as Manasquan -- the No. 3 seed in the SCT -- outlasted No. 6 Toms River North, 65-60, in overtime to reach the SCT semifinals for the sixth consecutive season.
Larned finished with 14 points to go with five assists and two steals.
"They are a great team," Larned said of Toms River North. "We have known that for a while. "We said right after we lost to them in the WOBM championship that we're going to get another shot at those guys.
"We knew it was going to be a battle today. They have the championship DNA, but so do we."
Junior Griffin Linstra led Manasquan with 18 points and 10 rebounds, including eight points in overtime to help the Warriors close out a Mariners team that handled Manasquan on Dec. 30 in the WOBM Christmas Classic championship game by a final count of 63-53. That result came only a month after three key Toms River North seniors -- Micah Ford, Tareq Council and Jeremiah Pruitt -- led Toms River North to a second consecutive NJSIAA Group V championship game.
"Same gameplan as the last time, I just thought we played a little bit better today," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said. "I made some mistakes in the first game tactically and switched some things from the gameplan after I promised the kids I wouldn't do that. I literally stayed out the way today and let them win. I didn't screw it up."
Larned was in the middle of Manasquan's biggest spurts of regulation, the first of which came right away. The senior scored Manasquan's first six points and the Warriors raced out to a 19-10 lead by the last minute of the first quarter.
"Coach has been telling me to be more aggressive, that I've got to get to the rack," Larned said. "Right when I started, I was just telling myself I need to get going so I could get my teammates pumped up. Right when they started falling, I just kept attacking.
"When I get to the rim, Alex (Konov) gets more shots, Rey gets wide open shots and he hits them. Griff hits them, Luke (Roy) hits them. I know when I do that, I help them."
The nine-point lead was the largest of the game for either team and Manasquan later built up a 39-31 advantage, but Toms River North rallied to take the lead after each deficit. The Mariners shot 5-for-6 from beyond the three-point line in the second quarter and 7-for-11 in the first half, with senior Owen Baker and sophomore Bryce Kazanowsky each hitting two in the first half.
Senior Sean Gathers scored 17 points off the bench to lead Toms River North, including 10 in a row to help the Mariners erase the eight-point deficit and tie the game at 41-41. Manasquan, however, immediately answered with a corner three-pointer from Roy to make it 44-41, which Toms River North then answered with a three from senior Micah Ford.
"They are such a unique team," Bilodeau said of Toms River North. "Some of their bigger guys can shoot. And then you have Micah, who is not a big body particularly, but he is just so discipline and skilled. It's just a really weird team to matchup with."
Larned scored to put Manasquan ahead, 46-44, and the Warriors led 48-44 before Gathers hit another three and Baker made a driving, left-handed scoop shot to catapult Toms River North to a 49-48 lead -- its first lead since the opening minute of the third quarter.
"I feel like we're all a bunch of leaders," Larned said. "We would just come together, talk about what we want to do and we implement it every time."
The teams traded free throws to set up a 50-50 tie and Larned put Manasquan back in front with a baseline drive. Ford then answered with the tying basket as he was fouled with 1:13 left in the fourth, but could not capitalize from the line.
Linstra then scored the first four points of overtime and Manasquan went up by six on a pair of free throws by Konov. Gathers cut the lead to 58-55 with a shot off the glass, but Manasquan put the game out of reach on the following possession when a Toms River North technical foul followed a common foul, giving Manasquan four free throws. Linstra hit two of them, then found senior Alex Konov for a layup and a 62-55 lead.
Konov and fellow senior Luke Roy also cracked double-figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, and freshman Rey Weinseimer finished with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers during a 13-2 third-quarter run that put Manasquan ahead, 39-31. Konov jumpstarted the run with a corner three-pointer that gave Manasquan a 31-29 lead and Weinseimer's threes stretched it to 37-31. Larned then found Roy for a layup and a 39-31 lead.
Ford finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Kazanowsky scored nine points and Baker netted eight for Toms River North. Ford and Baker were the focus of Toms River North's defense, which jumped in and out of different looks throughout the game.
"He is a dude," said Larned, who found himself matched up with Ford -- a Stanford football commit and the 2023 Shore Sports Network Football MVP -- throughout the game. "He is strong, he is physical and he's also a great guy. We were talking for a lot of the game, I have got nothing but good things to say about him. He is a good kid and a tough match up."
Gathers was a difference-maker for Toms River North on Saturday after he missed the first meeting between the teams while sitting out the first 22 days of the season while honoring the NJSIAA transfer rule. Manasquan did not have Konov in the first meeting due to a foot injury and did not have starting senior forward Ryan Mulvaney due to injury, with sophomore Jack O'Reilly starting in his place.
"It's impressive the way these guys have really answered the bell," Bilodeau said. "We've got a lot of (walking) boots on the bench. Guys have played through some stuff and other guys have stepped in when we have needed them."
After beating a Toms River North team that defeated them in December, the Warriors will next take on a team they beat in December. No. 7 Holmdel will seek a measure of a revenge Wednesday at Red Bank Regional High School after losing to Manasquan, 59-37, in its second game of the season.
If Manasquan is successful, it will mark the Warriors' sixth straight trip to the Shore Conference championship game -- a feat that has not been accomplished since CBA made six straight finals from 1992 to 1997. The Warriors have also been to 13 consecutive SCT quarterfinal rounds after Saturday's appearance.
"We are very proud to be keeping that semifinal run going and to have a chance to play for a championship, which has been our goal from day one," Larned said. "We haven't been as talented as some Manasquan team in the past have been, but we make up for it. We're rebound, we're hustlers, and we're very, very tight."