TOMS RIVER - Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said he prefers to wait until the 10th game of the season to begin to define his team's performance level and identity, but with some of the teams the Warriors have been taking down over the first two weeks of the season, seven games might be enough to brand this Manasquan team as dangerous.

Saturday's win was Manasquan's best yet, as the Warriors overmatched Toms River North - the host and No. 1 seed of the WOBM Christmas Classic - in the second half of the WOBM final at the RWJ Barnabus Health Center to pick up a 71-64 win over the Mariners and a second WOBM title in three years.

"Like Coach (Andrew) Bilodeau always says: We don't rebuild. We reload," senior point guard Ryan Flanagan said. "We always expect to be good at Manasquan."

Photo by Paula Lopez.
Photo by Paula Lopez.

The Warriors - the No. 7 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - entered the second half tied with the No. 9 team on the road and proceeded to take control of the game at the outset of the third quarter. Switching from man-to-man to a zone, Manasquan started the quarter on an 11-2 run to grab a nine-point lead at 34-25.

Manasquan's zone slowed Toms River North up just enough at the start of the half to allow the Warriors to push the tempo on offense following turnovers and one-shot possessions by the Mariners.

"We came to our senses and went to the zone," Bilodeau said. "I can't figure out why we didn't go to it earlier. We've done it in every game and we were very fortunate those guys overcame their coaching and had a good second half."

Junior Brad McCabe produced at least 24 points for the third consecutive game, this time tallying 27 points and nine rebounds to wrap up Tournament MVP honors. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and sparked the third-quarter surge with 11 points, including seven in three possessions to push the Warriors lead to 46-33.

Senior point guard Ryan Flanagan scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and approached a triple-double with eight rebounds and 10 assists. Flanagan was named to the First Team All-Tournament.

"We had a very good chemistry last year and going into this year it's been even better," McCabe said of his on-court rapport with Flanagan.

"I thought we did a good job of getting (McCabe) the basketball on time and on target," Bilodeau said. "Flanagan and those guys made sure he got the ball in spots where he could do damage."

After falling into the 13-point hole late in the third quarter, Toms River North climbed back to within four midway through the fourth. Senior Mark Mogarte hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to seven points and converted a three-point play off a turnover to draw the Mariners within 53-49.

Senior Travis Holland also answered two free throws by Flanagan with two of his own to make it 55-51. Holland finished with a team-high 23 points and Mogarte added 10, with Holland making the All-Tournament First Team and Mogarte being named to the second team. Senior Eliot Daks also finished with 10 points on Saturday

Manasquan made one more run to put the game on ice - an 11-1 spurt that extended  the Warriors lead to 66-52. Senior Emilio Stevenson hit two three-pointers out of the right corner during the run, the first to start it and the second to cap it. Sophomore Alex Galvan hit a pair of free throws and junior Xander Korolik added a three-point play as part of the run, giving Manasquan 11 critical points without requiring any from McCabe or Flanagan.

"I thought more than anything, tonight was a coming out for our big guys," Bilodeau said. "Galvan had a beautiful tournament. Xander Korolik really played great and Justin Gladden - Justin Gladden had 15 rebounds in the first half against Toms River South in the opening round."

Flanagan has been a consistent producer over Manasquan's first seven games and McCabe has joined him senior teammate over the last three. Flanagan is averaging 14.4 points per game and his 21 on Saturday set a new career best.

"Something just happened today on offense," Flanagan said. "We haven't scored too much. We should have played better defense, but the offense was better."

McCabe, meanwhile, did not score more than 14 points in any of Manasquan's first four games and that 14-point game was the only time he cracked double-figures. The arena in Toms River, however, transformed him and McCabe became a deadly shooter, knocking down six three-pointers in each of the three games at the venue.

"It's a great atmosphere in here," McCabe said. "There are a lot of people, it's a big court, it always feels like a big game. We just keep pushing the ball and Flanagan was finding everyone so we're getting good shots and making them."

To date, Manasquan's 7-0 start includes wins over Ocean, Long Branch, Toms River South, Middletown South, Toms River North and two over Red Bank Catholic. The two victories over RBC are the only two the Caseys have suffered.

"I think the quality of wins has been good and the fact that we've only been home once is also encouraging," Bilodeau said. "With the quick turnarounds, we haven't been practicing - it's just been walk-throughs and film. I think that shows the mental makeup of the team - the ability to take the information form walk-throughs and video and not a live practice and the ability to put it in play. Their mental aptitude has shown so far."

Saturday's win was also a measure of redemption for the returning players on the Warriors, who lost in last year's WOBM Classic semifinal to eventual champion Freehold Township.

"I just remember losing last year and it really angered me," Flanagan said. "I watched my older brother (Shane) win one (a WOBM Classic) and I wanted to win one too."


Note: This post has been edited to reflect that Manasquan lost in last year's WOBM semifinal to Freehold Township, not Toms River North.


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