MANASQUAN - Manasquan head coach Andrew Bilodeau and his players on the Warriors boys basketball team insist winning the Shore Conference Class A Central championship was not easy. They just made it look that way.

In a division home to three teams ranked in the top five of the Shore Sports Network Top 10, No. 3 Manasquan stamped itself as the top dog Tuesday night by handling No. 5 Red Bank Catholic, 74-60, to clinch the outright championship - the seventh straight division championship for the Warriors.

Mansquan's early-January loss at Red Bank Catholic was its only divisional loss and 10 of its 12 divisional wins are by double-digit margins. With their win on Tuesday, the Warriors also became the first Shore Conference team to reach 20 wins in 2018-19.

"It's brutal," Bilodeau said of navigating through the first 13 out of 14 divisional games. "I think our division has had four teams ranked in the top 10 at one point or another during the season. Looking at the state power points, no one in the Shore Conference has more power points than us - no one. To me, that's the strength of schedule and who you have beaten on that schedule. That says a lot about our conference."

Manasquan junior Kieran Flanagan. Photo by Paula Lopez)
Manasquan junior Kieran Flanagan. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Junior Kieran Flanagan led Manasquan with 21 points, including 14 during the first half behind 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.

Flanagan was one of four Manasquan players in double-figure scoring, joined by senior Brad McCabe and junior Alex Galvan with 15 points each and freshman Ben Roy with 13 off the bench.

Flanagan caught fire in the first quarter and scored eight points in the first eight minutes while Manasquan built up a 15-7 lead. The Warriors methodically built the lead over the next two quarters and stretched it out to a peak of 26 at 52-26 late in the third quarter.

"Yes, I have definitely been more comfortable, more confident," Flanagan said. "It really helps to have that third player that the defense has to guard. It takes pressure off Brad and gives us more options."

Tuesday's script differed significantly from the first meeting between the teams, won by RBC, 62-50. Manasquan shot a tick better than 30 percent in the game and its leading scorer, Galvan, scored only five points. After a scoreless first quarter, Galvan broke free with eight points in the second quarter on the way to 15 for the game.

"We didn't shoot the ball well at their place," Flanagan said. "One thing we preach every day in practice is unselfishness and since that game we have been really focused on sharing the ball and getting good shots every time down the floor."

The Caseys wound up with 60 points, but they had only 29 heading into the fourth quarter against Manasquan's defense, which hounded shooters junior Charlie Gordinier and senior John Duffy while shutting down the paint for junior forward Kevin Bauman and senior slashers Steve Lubischer and M.J. Wright.

Gordinier still finished with a game-high 27 points, with 12 coming in the fourth quarter.

Manasquan closes its regular season with road games at Shore Regional and Wall and two more wins would wrap up a solid case for the Warriors to be the No. 2 seed in next week's Shore Conference Tournament and no worse than No. 3. The No. 2 seed figures to come down to Manasquan and Christian Brothers Academy (17-3).

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