Shore Conference Tournament
Semifinal Round
Tuesday, February 19
At RWJBarnabas Health Arena, Toms River

4-Manasquan (18-5) vs. 1-St. John Vianney (20-2), 6:00

SSN Top 10 Rankings: St. John Vianney is No. 1. Manasquan is No. 4.

Projected Starting 5

Manasquan: Faith Masonius (Sr. G/F); Lola Mullaney (Sr. G); Annie Mako (Sr. G); Georgia Heine (Fr. G); Kate Leturgez (Jr. F).

St. John Vianney: Sarah Karpell (Sr. G); Sajada Bonner (Sr. F); Brelynn Bellamy (Sr. F); Katie Hill (Sr. G); Rahmena Henderson (Sr. G).

Breaking it down: Any concerns about St. John Vianney after entering the tournament on a sour note, losing to Christ the King (NY), 40-28, have been put to rest in the last week. The Lady Lancers ripped through 16th-seeded Jackson Memorial, 72-40, and 8th-seeded Middletown South, 66-38 - two well-balanced teams - by showcasing their own diversity.

Senior forward Sajada Bonner has been on a scoring tear for nearly a month and brought her exquisite touch into the post season, dropping 18 in each of the two SCT wins. Senior forward Brelynn Bellamy and freshman guard Madison St. Rose produce buckets through variety, putting the ball on the floor to carve paths inside or stepping back behind the arc.

The senior backcourt combination of Sarah Karpell and Rahmena Henderson not only sets the expected tenacity of the stifling defense (30.5 ppg.) with their tireless hounding on the ball, each has plenty of energy in reserve to get involved in the scoring rotation. Karpell is a particularly valuable multi-tasker, running the offense at the point and she comes off a 14-point performance in the quarterfinals against Middletown South, matching her season high.

Two things play in Vianney’s favor: depth and revenge. With sophomore guards Katie Hill and Mikaela Drennan and freshman forward Megan Cahalan in the mix, the Lady Lancers can apply maximum effort when they spring their suffocating press. There are a number of returning veterans with long memories who haven’t forgotten the 70-52 loss to Manasquan in last year’s final and have been waiting to nearly a year to make amends.

Manasquan had its feet put to the fire on Saturday, needing overtime to outlast 12th-seeded Red Bank, 61-58, in the quarterfinals. A reminder how quickly things can turn in the wrong direction in the SCT may have been the jolt needed entering the semifinals.

The Warriors lean heavily on the big-game experience of seniors Faith Masonius and Lola Mullaney, who repaid that trust with 27 and 22 points respectively, in the hard-fought win. Both have been consistent and robust scorers all season but can expect some serious defensive attention steered their way against SJV. Each counteracts such extremes with savvy play that magnifies the balance in their game.

Faith Masonius & Lola Mullaney of Manasquan (Photos by Paula Lopez)
Faith Masonius & Lola Mullaney of Manasquan (Photos by Paula Lopez)

Masonius can handle up the floor and push the ball with tempo and her instinctual passing, which has been a trademark since she was a freshman, invites those around her to make themselves scoring threats. Her array of moves and range away from the paint taxes a defender who must track her every move.

Mullaney has always been a presence on the arc and her 42 3-pointers this winter substantiate that point. But, she has developed into a more assertive penetrator off the wings and a keen option who instantly fills a lane at the hint of a transition opportunity. She knows when to leak out and head the fast break.

What Manasquan will need in the semis is for senior guard Annie Mako, junior forward Kate Leturgez and freshman guard Georgia Heine to take shots early, but not force attempts blindly. The mere idea each poses a threat to shoot could sway SJV away of constantly sending double teams at Mullaney and Masonius, who can anticipate help sliding their way any type the decided to take it to the rim. Early buckets from any of the three in well-spaced sets could create lanes.

The Warriors have to turn up the defense in this spot. Whether in a 2-3 or man, closing out along the arc without overplaying to the point of creating an opening to drive will be a delicate blend that has to be struck. Freshmen Dorothy Loffredo and Brooke Hollawell and junior Maddie Fagan come off the bench to offer a spell to whoever needs a rest. While Manasquan can play at a quick pace as well as anyone, it might not be able to afford jamming the transmission in fifth gear for 48 minutes.

Pick: St. John Vianney


3-Manchester (23-2) vs. 2-St. Rose (23-1), 7:45

SSN Top 10 Rankings: St. Rose is No. 2. Manchester is No. 3.

Projected Starting 5

Manchester: Kemari Reynolds (Jr. G); Destiny Adams (So. G); Dakota Adams (Sr. F); Leilani Correa (Sr. G); Serenity Anderson (Jr. G/F).

St. Rose: Abby Antognoli (So. G); Lauren Lithgow (Sr. G); Sam Mikos (Sr. G/F); Brynn Farrell (Jr. G/F); Maggie Stapleton (Sr. G).

Breaking it down: Get the feeling this could be a classic semifinal. There are so many common threads between St. Rose and Manchester. An abundance of talent resides on both sides, each can spread a defense thin by virtue of the overwhelming number of reliable scoring options and neither is bashful about amplifying the pace of play.

Leilani Correa of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Leilani Correa of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Manchester is making its first appearance in the SCT semifinals, a train that has arrived right on schedule. The offensive prowess of the Hawks (70.8 ppg.) is downright overwhelming, yet overshadows a defense (37.4 ppg.) that disrupts passing lanes through its collective length and predicates a good portion of its scoring output on converting the rash of turnovers it creates.

One of the most feared sights for an opposing defense is the image five players streaking down the floor in unison on the break, lanes filled from every conceivable angle giving the ball handlers limitless and dependable options eager to get to the tin. But, make no mistake, Manchester is just as effective operating out of the halfcourt.

Junior point guard Kemari Reynolds senses every seam of a defense or the slightest space for a shooter to strike. Her fearless drives inside yield payoffs in the form of layups or collapsing defenders instinctually drawn to the ball, allowing her to drop a dime to a teammate on the weakside.

The matchup issues are endless. At 6-3, sophomore Destiny Adams has all the tools to be a nightmare for whoever draws the unenviable assignment of stopping her. Her stroke from distance is pure, sudden acceleration off the bounce blinding and post work sealing off defenders underrated. Silky senior guard Leilani Correa glides to the hoop and is money practically every time she gets access to the net. But, deny that course of attack and she’ll simply go to other means, particularly a smooth release on a jumper that has no bounds.

Senior forward Dakota Adams is so undervalued for a mid-range game simply because of how rare it’s scene anymore. With defenders focusing attention on closing out the arc or detouring drives, her ability to find spots in between and converting is a lost art. She also can do work inside and headlines a rebounding concept that relies on anyone to grab a board and set things in rapid motion the other way.

Junior guard Serenity Anderson has slipped into an unsung role on which so much of the operation hinges. Her screens allow others to curl inside and passing creates good chances for communal scoring. But, sag off her and beware…she still can shoot with efficiency.

The breakneck pace Manchester embraces can be credited to a deep bench that has proven its worth. Guards Nakaleigh Hayes-Jones, Myah Hourigan and Morgan Brustman are more than just reserves, each assertive on offense and in lockstep with the tempo desired.

What Manchester runs into is a St. Rose squad that puts an emphasis on taking away strengths through its consistent defense (36.5 ppg.). The Purple Roses fashioned an undefeated march through the gauntlet that is the A Central to claim the crown, polishing the edges against Manasquan, Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven and Raritan, all SCT qualifiers.

Much like Manchester, this group predicates a good deal of point production off what manifests from the miscues it induces. Sophomore point guard Abby Antognoli plays fast but in total control, picking her spots when to materialize in a trap to make a steal and turn St. Rose instantly in the opposite direction. She continues to blossom into a premier playmaker immune to the pressure of a big stage. Senior swing Sam Mikos is a defensive glove who locks down on assignments and sets the expected tone for the resistance. Her length is a luxury that allows her to defend virtually any position.

Senior guard Lauren Lithgow might be most recognized for her perimeter punch but she gives St. Rose so much more. Her on-the-ball defense is relentless and ability to drive easily overlooked. She scored 12 points in the Roses’ 88-49 quarterfinal win over Marlboro without the aid of a single 3-pointer. But, rest assured, given the chance to hoist from behind the line is not something Manchester wants to offer.

Senior Maggie Stapleton is another specialist who can inflict damage from long range, giving St. Rose the opportunity to draw a Manchester defender away from the lane. Ample space inside the arc is an opening invitation for junior guard Brynn Farrell to strike.

Brynn Farrell of St. Rose (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Brynn Farrell of St. Rose (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The 5-11 guard has been an explosive scorer all season, averaging 18.4 points a contest. She routinely exploits the narrowest of seams, fires out in transition and has a perimeter game to boot. She has scored no less than 22 points in the last three games, including 25 in quarters in the semis, where her diversity was illuminated by a double-double that featured 11 boards as well as five assists and two blocks.

Makayla Andrews adds another dynamic to the scheme. The 5-10 guard is an accomplished finisher off the bounce, added presence on the glass, aggressive defender and attentive distributor who is as a good a sixth man as you can find. She headlines a deep bench that includes 5-11 sophomore Mo Stapleton, 5-8 junior guard Kitty Murphy, lengthy 6-0 sophomore Layla Laws, 5-10 freshman swing Mary Donnelly and 5-11 junior Maria Tedesco.

Pick: St. Rose

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