SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, February 23
At Monmouth University, West Long Branch
7 p.m.

MANCHESTER vs. ST. JOHN VIANNEY

Manchester Hawks
Potential Starting 5
10-Kemari Reynolds (Jr. G 5-8)
11-Leilani Correa (Sr. G 6-0)
15-Dakota Adams (Sr. F 5-10)
20-Destiny Adams (So. G/F 6-3)
30-Serenity Adams (Jr. G 5-9)

Reserves
2-Myah Hourigan (Fr. G 5-7)
3-Amyah Bray (Fr. G 5-6)
5-Nakaleigh Hayes-Jones (Jr. G 5-6)
13-Morgan Brustman (So. G 5-7)
24-Victoria Labrecque (Jr. G 5-4)
31-Emily Barron (So. G 5-3)

Coach: Dave Beauchemin

St. John Vianney Lady Lancers
Potential Starting 5
11-Rahmena Henderson (Sr. G 5-9)
13-Sarah Karpell (Sr. G 5-8)
23-Sajada Bonner (Sr. F 6-0)
25-Katie Hill (So. G 6-0)
42-Brelynn Bellamy (Sr. F 6-0)

Reserves
3-Emma Bruen (So. G 5-7)
4-Megan Cahalan (Fr. F 6-2)
10-Natalya Spinks (Sr. G 5-7)
12-Mikaela Drennan (So. G 5-4)
22-Madison St. Rose (Fr. G 5-9)
31-Ashley O'Connor (Fr. G 5-8)
45-Christina Whitehead (So. G 5-10)

Photos by Paula Lopez

(#3) Manchester Hawks (24-2)

Road to the Final
Round of 16: Defeated 19-Trinity Hall, 69-38
Quarterfinal Round: Defeated 6-Rumson-Fair Haven, 67-33
Semifinal Round: Defeated 2-St. Rose, 62-45

The Breakdown: Manchester will be shrewd in paying its respects to St. John Vianney. Players and staff will say the right things, expressing glee for reaching their first Shore Conference Tournament final and gratefulness for the opportunity to mark the special occasion by going against the program whose resume is littered with an unmatched 13 SCT title in the event’s 48-year history.

“With the tradition and history they have as a complete program, we’re really in a position with absolutely nothing to lose,” said Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin. “We just play our style of basketball and Saturday will be nothing different. It’s exciting.”

The third-seeded Hawks are coy hunters, wise to dispense homage toward a revered opponent with thoughtful praise yet smart enough to conceal an internal confidence at the root of an impressive march to this grand stage, where they’ll get to see how they measure up against top-seeded St. John Vianney in the SCT championship on Saturday at Monmouth University at 7 p.m.

Whether it chooses to brim with conviction to support all its accomplished or tone down patting its own back, the record speaks for itself. Manchester took a step up this winter, elevating its schedule against non-conference challengers with the intent of polishing the edges for this time of year. Since dropping back-to-back games against reigning Non-Public B state champion Saddle River Day and national powerhouse Bishop McNamara of Maryland two days apart at separate showcases in early January, the Hawks have run off 16 consecutive wins, counting Gloucester Catholic and Long Island Lutheran among its victims.

While both were attractive feathers in the cap, neither topped the one added on Tuesday night when the Hawks upended second-seeded St. Rose, 62-45, in the semifinals. In the process, they checked off a number of notable boxes synonymous with victories in late February and March, but none bigger than closing out an excellent opponent in a high-stakes setting.

“This win gave us way more confidence than we already had,” said junior point guard Kemari Reynolds after the semifinal. “Coming off those losses to Saddle River Day and Bishop McNamara, we worked so hard to make sure we never lost again. We developed trust in each other. We’re going to give it our all, every single one of us.”

It should come as no surprise that Leilani Correa was the compass pointing the Hawks in the direction of West Long Branch. The elegant 6-0 senior guard was a picture of grace and efficiency while flirting with a rare quadruple-double, piling up 30 points, 12 rebounds, nine steals and six assists in a complete performance.

The West Virginia pledge (16.4 ppg., 7.1 rpg., 2,7 apg., 3.5 spg., 36 3-pointers) is no stranger to big games, having competing in many during her first three years at Rutgers Prep, helping the Argonauts to a pair of Somerset County Tournament titles and two Non-Public B state championship before transferring to Manchester. Few players embrace magnified moments better than Correa, whose exemplary play under the spotlight has had an infectious effect on those around her.

Senior point guard Kemari Reynolds (10.1 ppg., 3.0 rpg., 5.0 apg., 3.1 spg., 15 3-pointers) conducts business with poise and purpose. Her slick drives, shooting range and attentive distribution balanced by fierce defense out high.

Destiny Adams (14.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg., 2.4 apg., 2.2 bpg., 2.0 spg., 33 3-pointers), a 6-3 sophomore swing epitomizes where the game is at today, playing away from the paint with the same steady resolve she shows when gaining position in the low.

Her senior sister, Dakota (10.1 ppg., 6.9 rpg., 1.2 apg., 1.5 bpg., 2.0 spg.), a rugged 5-10 forward, sets the hustle meter high for Manchester, relentless competing on the glass while providing a mid-range option as reliable as when she anchors on the blocks. And, junior guard Serenity Anderson (3.1 ppg., 2.8 rpg., 2.5 apg., 1.2 spg., 20 3-pointers), recognized for her willingness to set hard screens and illuminating teammates’ strengths with a heady pass, still has a delicate touch when she pulls the trigger from behind the arc.

“Everybody was doubting us,” said Destiny Adams of the feeling inside the Hawks’ camp leading into the encounter with St. Rose. “We felt, as a team, we were better than them and it pushed us. We like the competitiveness because it brings an urge to play harder”

While Manchester’s skill sets create an impressive dossier, including an offense that hums (70.5 ppg.) and a daring defensive style that yields 37.7 in return, what’s easy to overlook is the one physical element that came to light in the semifinal win over St. Rose. Yes, the Hawks have a talented pool of reserve guards in junior Nakaleigh Hayes-Jones, sophomore Morgan Brustman and freshman Myah Hourigan. However, the starting five is amongst the best conditioned in state, substantiated by the ironman effort Tuesday night that saw Manchester substitute not once, a credit to avoiding foul trouble.

That’s nothing to balk at considering how often the Hawks like to run the floor, particularly breaking out in unison off the defensive class in what appears like an internal race to see who can get down the court the fastest in order to finish at the rim.

So, yes, the task against St. John Vianney on Saturday night will be a daunting one, but not something Manchester can’t handle. It’s what the Hawks have been building for over the last two years, an express train on track and pulling into the station right on time.

3-MANCHESTER
(24-2, 14-0 in Class B South)
HEAD COACH: Dave Beauchemin
8th season 127-85
PRIOR SCT FINAL APPEARANCES: 0

Photos by Paula Lopez

(#1) St. John Vianney Lady Lancers (21-2)

Road to the Final
Round of 16: Defeated 16-Jackson Memorial, 72-40
Quarterfinal Round: Defeated 8-Middletown South, 66-38
Semfinal Round: Defeated 4-Manasquan, 53-51

The Breakdown: The fire eternally burns in the belly of St. John Vianney, each class of players driven by the incentive of authoring a championship chapter into the annals of one of the most storied girls basketball programs in New Jersey.

Those who do join a sorority with exclusive membership. At alumni reunions, where former players lace ‘em up to relive days gone by, no one wants to be left out of when the discussion eventually turns to the topic of titles reaped.

The Holmdel school is home to an unprecedented 13 Shore Conference Tournament championship. There’s a good chance the current cast of Lady Lancers could bestow history upon the uninformed as easily as those responsible for crafting it but this group is more about making it than reciting it.

Senior Sarah Karpell knows the lore perhaps better than anyone. Certainly, she’s heard a tale or two from her mother, Dawn, who won three as a Lady Lancer in the ‘90s and has coached her alma mater to another in 2016 with her daughter getting a taste of the glory as a freshman reserve.

Time is running out on the two to fetch a second together, their last opportunity to do so coming Saturday night when top-seeded St. John Vianney collides with third-seeded Manchester in the SCT championship at 7 p.m. at Monmouth University.

A win would take the two full circle, not to mention, go a long way toward easing any lingering pain from a year ago, when the Lancers bowed to Manasquan, 70-52, in the title tilt. St. John Vianney got its revenge on Tuesday, outlasting the defending champion Warriors, 53-51, to secure their 22nd appearance in the final against a hungry Hawks’ squad making its first.

But, make no mistake, a hunger resides within the Lady Lancers as well. This marks their fourth consecutive bid at an SCT crown with each of the last two ending in defeat, a trend they hope to buck.

In order to do so, it will all start with a defense that will be put to the test by the blazing quickness and floor balance of Manchester. Vianney has the committed defenders to neutralize a lot of what the Hawks seek to accomplish, its relentless man-to-man and haste-producing full-court pressure surrendering 31.4 points an outing.

Karpell (7.5 ppg., 3.9 apg., 3.0 spg.) and fellow senior guard Rahmena Henderson (6.2 ppg., 1.4 apg., 4.3 rpg., 3.3 spg.) sink their teeth into defensive assignments, harassing ballhandlers with active hands designed for thievery to spring the fast break. Brelynn Bellamy (9.2 ppg., 3.2 apg., 5.1 rpg., 4-0 spg.,), a lengthy 6-0 senior forward, and bruising 6-0 frontcourt partner Sajada Bonner (14.5 ppg., 1.5 apg., 4.7 rpg., 1.8 spg.) aren’t the least bit hesitant when it comes to the physicality that comes with challenging on the interior and each goes to the boards with a passion, getting aid in that department from 6-0 sophomore guard Katie Hill (8.2 ppg., 2.1 apg., 4.0 rpg., 1.8 spg.).

At the opposite end, the Lady Lancers run sets with meticulous, calculated execution. Karpell is a deferring playmaker, geared to enhance the play of others yet aware of when to attack off the dribble or load up from 3-point range. Henderson is a slashing penetrator who throws caution to the wind when she ventures inside, drawing fouls and trips to the line.

Bellamy is coming off a signature performance. In Vianney’s semifinal win over Manasquan, she buried five 3-pointers, shot 6 of 12 from the field and totaled 17 points, a sign of her growth and confidence asserting herself into the shooting rotation.

“I took her out and told her they were leaving her open,” Karpell said of the early message she sent to Bellamy on Tuesday night. “I wanted her to look to attack it. When the ball is reversing and she’s balanced, she can knock ‘em down. She stepped up and a hit a lot of big ones for us.”

Bonner has been the Lancers’ most consistent scorer, riding a string of 15 straight games finishing in double figures. While her primary work revolves in and around the paint, she, too, must be accounted for behind the 3-point line.

The wild card is Madison St. Rose. The 5-9 southpaw two-guard (9.3 ppg., 1.7 apg., 3.4 rpg., 2.4 spg.) has been a solid presence all season but formally introduced herself to the Shore basketball community Tuesday night. Her versatility yielded pivotal contributions in the form of blocked shots, steals, rebounds and 11 points while her commitment was evident when she twice stepped into the path of oncoming traffic to absorb a pair of inspiring charge calls.

There have been multiple occasions throughout the season in which every component has hit on all cylinders, resulting in some of SJV’s finest work. It will a duplication of such performances for the group of authors to pen their names into history.

1-ST. JOHN VIANNEY
(21-2, 14-0 in B North)
HEAD COACH: Dawn Karpell
13th season (322-58,  overall 398-101)
PRIOR SCT FINAL APPEARANCES: 21
SCT CHAMPIONSHIPS: 13 ('90, '91, '92, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '02, '04, '05, '16)

Prediction: St. John Vianney 58, Manchester 57

Man, is this one gonna be fun. Been going back and forth on the pick for last couple of days because a compelling case can be made for either team.

Manchester has won 16 straight, shown no sign of relenting and has been thoroughly impressive getting to this point, winning emphatically all the way through. St. John Vianney has a chip on its shoulder, quietly driven to end a two-game losing streak in the SCT final and its close call against Manasquan in the semifinals may have been a timely reminder of slim the margin for error at this stage of the season.

The OceanFirst Bank Center can be a tricky place for shooters. While the 3-pointer plays a significant role in the Vianney offense, Manchester, though amply stocked with perimeter punch, is more inclined to attack the rim, a point the Lady Lancers have to deny by clogging lanes to the basket. Both sides are highly competitive on the glass. Inclined to believe whoever ends with the rebounding edge will also be the one hoisting the championship hardware.

Manchester played ironman basketball in its semifinal win over St. Rose, the starting five going the distance. Thus, SJV has to find ways to wear down the Hawks, making them work for whatever looks they get and limiting run outs. No easy task. Using some of their physical assets in the paint won't hurt the cause either, perhaps a key that could put some mounting fouls upon the Hawks, who have endured such a plight because of how wise and unflappable they've played.

Vianney also has to be smart with the basketball and avoid telegraphing feeds to counteract Manchester's disruptive length, which congests passing lanes and can create bushels of turnovers translated in fast-break points. The Hawks would also like to pattern their approach somewhat like Manasquan, limiting the amount of SJV buckets, thus denying the Lady Lancers the chance to put on their full-court press.

That all said, leaning toward Vianney ever so slightly. Its depth and adaptability with a variety of size and speed to mix and match gives it some creative license, but, when comparing the two teams, the degree of separation is thisclose. Could be a classic.

SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT HISTORY

GIRLS BASKETBALL

2018---Manasquan 70, St. John Vianney 52

2017---St. Rose 56, St. John Vianney 31

2016---St. John Vianney 59, Manasquan 48

2015---Manasquan 69, St. Rose 60

2014---Manasquan 61, St. Rose 41

2013---Red Bank Catholic 50, Point Pleasant Boro 46

2012---St. Rose 65, Manasquan 56

2011---Neptune 57, St. John Vianney 48

2010---Neptune 60, Colts Neck 50

2009---Neptune 56, St. John Vianney 54

2008---Colts Neck 66, Red Bank Catholic 53

2007---Red Bank Catholic 34, Rumson 31

2006---Red Bank Catholic 41, Rumson 31

2005---St. John Vianney 47, Monmouth Reg. 30

2004---St. John Vianney 56, Toms River North 47

2003---Red Bank Catholic 48, Marlboro 46

2002---St. John Vianney 39, Marlboro 36

2001---Red Bank Catholic 44, St. John Vianney 39

2000---Red Bank Catholic 62, St. John Vianney 56

1999---St. John Vianney 56, Red Bank Catholic 52

1998---St. John Vianney 45, Red Bank 34

1997---St. John Vianney 59, Red Bank Catholic 45

1996---St. John Vianney 53, Red Bank Catholic 47

1995---St. John Vianney 61, Red Bank Catholic 55

1994---St. John Vianney 86, Red Bank 46

1993---St. Rose 67, St. John Vianney 57

1992---St. John Vianney 54, St. Rose 50

1991---St. John Vianney 58, Keyport 47

1990---St. John Vianney 59, Toms River East 48

1989---Neptune 79, St. John Vianney 49

1988---Neptune 70, Raritan 48

1987---Neptune 61, Manasquan 46

1986---St. Rose 55, Freehold Twp. 52

1985---Middletown South 50, Neptune 48

1984---Southern Regional 42, Neptune 40

1983---Manasquan 43, Lakewood 36

1982---Neptune 59, Rumson 46

1981---Manasquan 45, Middletown North 35

1980---Freehold Twp. 70, Brick 47

1979---Middletown South 45, Asbury Park 43

1978---Shore Regional 48, Asbury Park 45

1977---Asbury Park 56, Shore Regional 33

1976---Asbury Park 83, Lakewood 56

1975---Asbury Park 51, Toms River South 27

1974---Asbury Park 45, Long Branch 37 (OT)

1973---Shore Regional 43, Brick 41

1972---Brick 37, Point Pleasant Boro 27

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