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TOMS RIVER - In nearly three full years of high school basketball, not to mention high-level AAU competition, Manchester junior Destiny Adams has seen just about everything there is to see from opposing defenses at this level of basketball.

Now that the Hawks are 26 games into the 2019-20 season, Adams's younger and less-experienced teammates have seen just about everything as well and on Tuesday night against Red Bank Catholic in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, they looked ready for what was coming.

Adams put up 22 points and 19 rebounds against RBC's box-and-one defense while a host of Hawks supporting-cast members contributed on both ends of the floor to pace second-seeded Manchester to a 64-43 win.

In discarding the No. 3 Caseys Tuesday night, Manchester earned its second straight trip to the SCT championship game one year after reaching and winning the title game for the first time in program history. Just as they did a year ago, Manchester will take on top-seeded St. John Vianney at OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University - this time on Saturday at 5 p.m.

"I feel like a lot of people my be doubting us this year so to get back to the finals is a really big accomplishment," Adams said.

Manchester junior Destiny Adams. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Manchester junior Destiny Adams. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"Some on the outside might think we're doing this with the same team because we have Destiny but we're actually a much different type of team," Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin said. "We're a young team, actually. To get back there and win tonight by playing as complete as we did, it was pretty special. It was a coming-alive moment for a lot of our players."

Manchester racked up 64 points against RBC's defensive configuration - which stuck senior Fab Eggenschwiler on Adams while the other four players sat in a zone - despite getting off to a slow start. Fortunately for Manchester, its defense showed up from the opening tip and the Hawks still led, 9-6 after one quarter.

Both offenses got going late in the first quarter and Manchester went up, 26-20 at halftime, with both teams turning in balanced scoring efforts on offense.

In the second half, Manchester's offense took off and its defense did not lag - a recipe for what turned out to be a one-sided victory after a competitive first half.Senior Serenity Anderson added 10 points and three assists while freshman Angelica Velez pitched in nine points and seven assists to back up Adams's standout statistical night.

"I think once we learned how to move the ball around the box-and-one, things changed and it opened up the floor," Adams said. "I just knew I had to keep my composure because I knew if I lost my mind because they were in my face, then my team would have gotten frazzled. It's a box-and-one - you just have to remain calm and play your role within the offense."

"You would think box-and-one is something teams put on Destiny all the time but not every team has a player to put on her," Beauchemin said. "So we don't see it as much as you might think. The biggest thing we tried to do was move her into space where they needed to use two defenders on her. I told Destiny, 'I don't care if you score in the second half, we need to win this game.' In a way, we did not force it into her and she still ended up with 22 for the game because she is that good."

Senior University of Pennsylvania commit Kemari Reynolds and Anderson opened the third with back-to-back three-pointers and followed four straight points by RBC to answer, Manchester went on an 11-2 run to open up a 43-26 lead. Adams scored six points during the run.

"We got a three, stop and a three coming out of the half and you could just feel it," Beauchemin said. "The energy was ours."

Anderson and Reynolds (five points Thursday night) were also starters on last year's SCT championship team along with Adams. Velez and classmate Gabriella Ross (six points) have made an instant impact, while sophomores Amyah Bray (six) and Myah Hourigan (three) and senior Nahkaleigh Hayes-Jones (three) have all become steady contributors, as they were Thursday night.

"I have been truly blessed to have two freshmen come in here who play AAU who are very talented and know the game," Adams said. "A lot of teams have freshmen come in and they have know idea how to play at this level. For them to come in and play big parts, it's just great."

Red Bank Catholic freshman Ally Carman led the Caseys with 12 points and sophomore Justine Pissott added 11 in the loss.

Last year's Manchester team overcame its program inexperience to win the SCT thanks, in part, to a senior in Lelaini Correa who spent three years competing for state championships at Rutgers Prep. This year's team now has Adams, Reynolds and Anderson to lean on for championship experience against an SJV team that is hungry for a payback win after Manchester handled the Lancers last year.

"They are the structure that many teams want to be," Beachemin said of St. John Vianney. "That constant machine that can execute no matter who is on the floor, no matter what group is out there - that's what is dangerous about them.

"They shoot the ball so well, they execute well within each other, they defend well - they have the pieces of the game that you would want. It's going to be another great one."


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