Girls Basketball: Breaking down the SCT quarterfinals
Shore Conference Tournament
Saturday, February 16
At RWJBarnabas Health Arena, Toms River
8-Middletown South (18-4) vs. 1-St. John Vianney (19-2), 11
SSN Top 10 Rankings: St. John Vianney is No. 1. Middletown South is No. 8.
Projected Starting 5
Middletown South: Isla Brennan (Sr. PG); Kayla Richardson (Jr. G/F); Sam Keenan (Sr. F); Stephanie Mayerhofer (Jr. G); Eve Pirie (Sr. F).
St. John Vianney: Sarah Karpell (Sr. G); Sajada Bonner (Sr. F); Brelynn Bellamy (Sr. F); Katie Hill (Sr. G); Rahmena Henderson (Sr. G).
Notes: Might not be a hotter hand amongst the remaining teams as sizzling as Isla Brennan. She has hit nine 3-pointers in the first two rounds, including a 6-for-6 perfecto Thursday night in South’s 53-52 win over Toms River North. But, the Eagles are at the sharpest when they can balance the floor and make room for everyone to exert their strengths. Kayla Richardson can post or penetrate depending on matchups but will finish either way. Stephanie Mayerhofer can't be overlooked for her offensive versatility as both a shooter and driver and frontcourt staples Sam Keenan and Eve Pirie can alter shots, grab rebounds and deposit buckets in and around the paint.
St. John Vianney is a crew with a purpose. The Lady Lancers were the top seed a year ago only to absorb a painful 70-52 loss to Manasquan in the championship. Losses like that are logs on the fire for a competitive cast that releases its emotions on defense. SJV yields 30.1 points per game by applying pressure and dictating terms, two traits that make Rahmena Henderson one of the area's premier defenders. On the offensive side, Sajada Bonner has scored in double figures in each of the last 13 contests. After taking one on the chin Wednesday night, falling to Christ the King (NY), 40-28, the Lady Lancers regained form in their 72-40 win over Jackson Memorial, putting four players in double digits, more in line with what they are accustomed to doing. Brelynn Bellamy, Katie Hill and freshman guard Madison St. Rose find seams to contribute point while giving point guard Sarah Karpell an array of targets to consider.
Pick: St. John Vianney
12-Red Bank (16-7) vs. 4-Manasquan (17-5), 12:45
SSN Top 10 Rankings: Red Bank is unranked. Manasquan is No. 4
Projected Starting 5
Red Bank: Meghan Murray (Sr. G); Caitlyn Decker (So. G); Chloe Teter (So. G); Amelia Medolla So. G); Mia Conti (Sr. G/F).
Manasquan: Faith Masonius (Sr. G/F); Lola Mullaney (Sr. G); Annie Mako (Sr. G); Georgia Heine (Fr. G); Kate Leturgez (Jr. F).
Notes: Red Bank is here by virtue of the biggest upset of the tournament, taking down fifth-seeded Red Bank Catholic, 65-62, in the Round of 16. How’d they do it? Using their strengths. The Bucs are quick, interchangeable, unselfish, athletic and fearless. They compensate for a lack of size with intangibles like hustle and passion. They’re backcourt is dynamic with senior Meghan Murray and sophomores Caitlyn Decker and Chloe Teter instilling the desired pace Red Bank likes to establish. And, be sure to recognize what sophomore Amelia Medolla and reserves Mia Strand, Mia Conti and Emma Moriarity offer the Bucs - depth and additional outlets to seek for points.
Manasquan is more than cool with the idead of playing at a brisk tempo. Faith Masonius can clean a defensive board and triggered a run out in the blink of an eye with lanes immediately filled to provide run-out options. Senior guard Lola Mullaney can dissect a halfcourt defense no matter if its chooses to play zone or man. She’s happy to shoot a team out of the former or expose the latter off the dribble. Junior Kate Leturgez, senior Annie Mako and freshmen Georgia Heine, Brooke Hollawell and Dorothy Loffredo are all slick operators off the ball giving the Warriors the luxury of a spreading the floor and creating ample space for productive work.
7-Marlboro (20-4) vs. 2-St. Rose (22-1), 2:30
SSN Top 10 Rankings: St. Rose is No. 2. Marlboro is No. 7
Projected Starting 5
Marlboro: Sammy Jay (So. G); Dani Schlesinger (Fr. G); Gisella Romeo (Sr. G); Jessica Riepe (So. F); Theresa Besso (Sr. 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).
Notes: This one could be the most entertaining contest of the quarterfinal quadrupleheader. Marlboro has embraced The System, a unique scheme that seeks to establish a breakneck tempo and hinges on rapid shots from range and rapid substitution patterns. Why the Mustangs have thrived operating it is due to how well all involved have grasped the nuances and executed them at a high rate of efficiency. St. Rose will be wise to consider anyone who touches the ball to be a shooting threat because, quite simply, they are. Marlboro has buried a mind-blowing 258 3-pointers, which averages out to 10.7 per game. Seniors Theresa Besso (36 3-pointers) and Gisella Romeo (26), junior Sam Nocco (33), sophomores Jessica Riepe (49)Laura Morehead (37), Sammy Jay (32) and freshman Dani Schlesinger (37) make it tough on a defense to account for every threat properly.
But, defense is a St. Rose calling card (36.0 ppg.). The Purple Roses will seek to defuse Marlboro’s volatility before it can ignite by applying persistent pressure on the ball and shrewdly trapping when the opportunity presents itself. Closing out along the arc is imperative but so, too, is retrieving long rebounds that don’t give Marlboro the chance at multiple looks and prolonged possessions. The Roses can generate their own blinding tempo with buckets in transition. Sophomore guard Abby Antognoli has a keen feel for when to accelerate and when to downshift into halfcourt sets. Junior swing Brynn Farrell has been among the state’s most consistent finishers and does so with variety. Seniors Lauren Lithgow and Maggie Stapleton pose perimeter threats and the insertion of junior swing Makayla Andrews lends a versatile option to the offense as well as two gripping hands under the glass.
Pick: St. Rose
6-Rumson-Fair Haven (15-8) vs. 3-Manchester (22-2), 4:15
SSN Top 10 Rankings: Manchester is No. 3. Rumson-Fair Haven is No. 6
Projected Starting 5
Rumson-Fair Haven: Lucy Adams (Jr. F); Grace Munt (So. G); Cortland McBarron (So. G); Sophia Passalaqua (Jr. G); Chase Boyle (So. F).
Manchester: Kemari Reynolds (Jr. G); Destiny Adams (So. G); Dakota Adams (Sr. F); Leilani Correa (Sr. G); Serenity Anderson (Jr. G/F).
Notes: Rumson-Fair Haven has made steady progress over the course of the season, striding into the quarterfinals with nary a senior to be found in its starting lineup. The Bulldogs are battle-tested from the A Central and have sharpened their teeth to deliver a stinging bite on defense (37.8 ppg.). The offense has done solid working making every component dangerous. Lucy Adams, Sophia Passalaqua, Grace Munt and Cortland McBarron have all had moments pacing the scoring production. Where RFH has to have a sustained presence is on the boards. Sophomore Chase Boyle works tirelessly on the glass, embodying the exact formula necessary to keep Manchester from second-chance buckets.
The Bulldogs also better have the proper footwear need for the track-meet explosiveness the Hawks are capable of. Fast breaks materialize in more ways than just transition out of turnovers. When the Hawks clear a defense rebound, it might as well sound like a starter’s pistol as all five components fire out of the gates to fill the lanes and overwhelm retreating defenders. And, anyone of the floor is fully capable of finishing the run out. Rumson has to limit its turnovers and strive to create a setting more designed to the halfcourt, yet Manchester is just as lethal when slowed into sets. Senior point guard Kemari Reynolds reads a defense like a hardwood quarterback while Destiny Adams and Leilani Correa put defenders off balance with their combination of defiant drives and silky perimeter touch. Dakota Adams has one of the Shore’s better mid-range games and a ceaseless work engine on the boards and Serenity Anderson is the Hawk’s Swiss Army knife, a multi-tasker willing to do whatever is asked at the highest level. And, Manchester is deep, running junior guard Nakaleigh Hayes-Jones, sophomore guard Morgan Brustman and freshman guard Myah Hourigan confidently off the bench.