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MANASQUAN -- For three of the four quarters of its highly-anticipated home game against the No. 1 team in New Jersey Monday afternoon, Manasquan was an offensive machine -- one that looked primed to upset a nationally-ranked Roselle Catholic team led by two of the top players in the country from the 2023 class.

It only took one quarter, however, for Roselle Catholic to overwhelm Manasquan and that eight-minute stretch was the difference in the Lions avoiding a sizable upset at the hands of the Warriors.

Arizona State commit Akil Watson scored a team-high 19 points and Roselle Catholic responded to a seven-point halftime deficit by holding Manasquan scoreless during the third quarter -- the turning point in a 68-59 Lions win in front of a capacity crowd Monday at Manasquan High School.

"It was a good experience," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said. "They have two NBA lottery picks and some other high-major players and I think a lot of people left here feeling like we should have one. I know we do."

Juniors Alex Konov and Ryan Frauenheim led Manasquan's offensive outburst in the first half, with Frauenheim scoring 13 of his 16 points and all three of his three-pointers in the first quarter and Konov hitting his last five three-point attempts of the half on the way to a game-high 21 points.

The two juniors combined for 26 points in the first half, with Konov hitting a corner three in the final seconds to send the Warriors to the locker room with a 38-31 lead. Frauenheim also dished out a game-high six assists.

"We really thought we were the better team out there," Frauenheim said. "We thought we should have won. We were getting great shots (in the third quarter), we just couldn't hit them. If we make a couple more shots, we should have won that game."

In the third quarter, however, Roselle Catholic extended its defense, which features considerable size, length and athleticism. Akil Watson (6-foot-8), Duke commit Mackenzie Mgbako (6-10), Tarek Watson (6-9), North Carolina commit Simeon Wilcher (6-5) and Sebastian Robinson (6-4) all go 6-4 or taller in the starting lineup and 6-9 junior Rich Brisco brings even more size off the bench.

"We knew they were going to bring pressure," Frauenheim said. "We went over it at halftime. They denied every pass. They were trapping ball screens and hand-offs. They made it hard for us."

After Manasquan shot 10-for-16 from three-point range in the first half, the Warriors went dark in the third with a 0-for-5 showing from beyond the arc and 0-for-8 overall. Manasquan's possessions became much more deliberate in the third quarter and the Warriors turned the ball over on five of their 10 possessions in the third after committing just three turnovers in the entire first half.

Wilcher also came to life for Roselle Catholic in the second half after scoring just two points in the first. He poured in nine points after halftime to finish with 11 for the game while also contributing three assists and three steals.

"We are all about defense," Bilodeau said. "A little piece of me dies every time the other team scores. Unfortunately, it's hard to stop them from scoring. They are ridiculously talented and well-organized. They are just absurdly good."

A pair of free throws by sophomore Darius Adams ended the scoreless drought and Konov shook loose for threes on back-to-back Manasquan possessions in the middle of the third quarter to cut Roselle Catholic's lead to 50-48. The Lions, however, answered with a three by Mgbako, which jumpstarted an 8-0 run that pushed the lead up to 10 -- the largest of the game to that point.

"When you're behind and they start to show patience, you can't go get those guys (on defense)," Bilodeau said. "It's apples and oranges. Once they started to open the floor up, now, you've got to make threes. We made two down the stretch, but they (Roselle Catholic) showed patience and then they beat you on the glass."

In addition to leading Roselle Catholic in scoring, Akil Watson also drew the primary assignment of guarding Adams, who entered Monday averaging a team-high 19.7 points per game over Manasquan's first seven games. Adams cracked double-figures and finished with 11 points and five assists, but that came with 3-for-17 shooting from the field and 0-for-9 from three-point range.

"He's always game," Bilodeau said of Adams. "He is always ready to go, regardless of what happened last game or what shots are going in or not going in. They all are."

Junior Tarik Watson also added 13 points for Roselle Catholic and helped the Lions dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. Roselle Catholic's size was a major factor in earning 31 free-throw attempts, including 23 in the first half. The Lions converted only 16 of the attempts for the game and 10-of-23 in the first half.

"When you're not making shots, you've got to get stops," Bilodeau said. "Their big advantage, which is so obvious, is their ability to get second and third opportunities. I thought Quinn Peters, Alex Konov, Jack Dettlinger and Griffin Linstra did a wonderful job on the glass, but not to the extent that it's a weapon for us against them."

Roselle Catholic began its season with three out-of-state losses to programs of national notoriety before returning to New Jersey and beginning its in-state season with wins over the Patrick School and Manasquan. The Lions won the last ever NJSIAA Tournament of Champions last season and are out to defend their No. 1 ranking with Wilcher and both Watson brothers back in the fold and Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard's) and Robinson (Elizabeth) both transferring in.

On the other side, Manasquan was coming off three comfortable wins at the WOBM Christmas Classic, including an 84-28 win over Toms River East in the bracket championship game. The Warriors have lost two other competitive games to state-ranked teams - a 49-41 overtime loss to Linden at Elizabeth High School and a 56-48 loss at St. Rose on Dec. 22.

"That's the top team we're going to face all season and we were in the game in the fourth quarter," Frauenheim said. "Should have one, but this is going to help us."


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