TOMS RIVER – Manchester is used to overwhelming teams in the blink of an eye, but this time the shoe was on the other foot.

What was a 13-point Hawks’ lead early in the third quarter had been vaporized by a suddenly-streaking Lincoln squad, and Manchester needed a quick answer if it was going to make history. Head coach Dave Beauchemin pulled his team in to talk with their lead now at just two points in the NJSIAA Group 2 final.

“That timeout gave us a chance to breathe and absorb what’s going on,” Beauchemin said. “(Lincoln is) a good team; they didn’t get here by a fluke. They made runs to come back and win their last three games so we tried to stay the course. We told them they’re not going to go anywhere and we need an answer right now.”

“They did more than that.”

Manchester played like a team that simply would not be denied for the remaining 11 minutes, quickly restoring its double-digit lead and finishing off a 65-48 win over Lincoln on Sunday afternoon at RWJBarnabas Health Arena to claim the first state title in program history. Following the timeout, the Hawks produced a 15-3 run and never looked back to continue their special season.

Manchester won its first state title by defeating Lincoln, 65-48, to win the 2019 NJSIAA Group 2 championship. (Photo by Paula Lopez).
Manchester won its first state title by defeating Lincoln, 65-48, to win the 2019 NJSIAA Group 2 championship. (Photo by Paula Lopez/

“It feels great,” said sophomore Destiny Adams, who authored a career-best performance in the biggest game in program history. “We’ve made a lot of history and just to keep going and keep making history feels great.”

“It’s amazing, that feeling of relief like we’ve finally done it,” said junior point guard Kemari Reynolds.

Destiny Adams was tremendous on both ends of the floor and affected the game in every facet possible. She topped all scorers with a career-high 34 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range, while also pulling in nine rebounds, dishing out five assists, blocking eight shots and coming away with two steals. She scored 12 points in the third quarter when Manchester turned a close game into a runaway victory.

“From the post, from three, from the free-throw line, out in transition; she scored in every way possible tonight,” Beauchemin said.

“She played the best she’s played this whole season today when we really needed it, especially when they started to come back,” Reynolds said. “I’m just really proud of her. Being a sophomore and dropping 30, that’s huge.”

Making Adams’ performance even more impressive was the fact her defensive assignment was Lincoln senior Daniya Darby, the Lions’ top player. Darby finished with a team-high 22 points on 10 of 17 shooting and also grabbed 12 rebounds, but just eight of those points came in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.

“We talked about her matchup, defensively, and that she needed to use her length and her size to help us,” Beauchemin said. “It goes beyond points. Everything for (Lincoln) was control through the paint, so for her to be able to alter shots, get tips on rebounds, keep plays alive for us for someone to come in a crash the boards and still be a helper was huge.”

A byproduct of Adams needing to lock in on defense was her playing more free on the offensive end.

“Sometimes for these you ladies who have such talent, getting a defensive assignment that is that much of a challenge clears your mind on the offensive end to just let your full game show. And she showed it.”

“I think we just all came together and were focused and motivated,” Adams said. “When we work as a team you can’t stop us.”

Senior Leilani Correa added 15 points and five rebounds and senior Dakota Adams had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards to help lead Manchester.

It was a back-and-forth first quarter until Manchester ended the period on a 6-0 run to take a 10-6 lead into the second quarter. Correa opened the scoring in the second with a driving layup and Destiny Adams followed by blocking a shot and converting a three-pointer on the other end. A steal by Correa led to a breakaway layup that capped a 13-0 run, giving Manchester a 17-6 lead and prompted a Lincoln timeout.

Darby kept Lincoln in the game with 14 first-half points - all directly under the basket - including a layup at the buzzer to cut Manchester’s lead to 26-16 at halftime.

Manchester maintained its 10-point lead through the first four minutes of the third quarter until Lincoln closed to within two points after a pair of threes by Jakira Coar and a bucket by Tymira Miller. That’s when Manchester knew it couldn’t let the game get away.

“When we called the timeout we said to ourselves ‘remember who you are, you’re a great team’,” Reynolds said. “We just had to keep telling each other that; just reminding ourselves who we are helped us come out in the end.”

The Hawks’ answer was swift and decisive. As quickly as Lincoln had made it a game again, Manchester grabbed back control just as fast. Adams converted a conventional three-point play and then scored again for a 40-33 lead. Allisa Colon knocked down a three for Lincoln, but it did little to slow down the Hawks. Adams drained another three and Correa scored inside for a 45-36 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Dakota Adams kept the run going with two baskets to open the fourth quarter to stretch Manchester’s lead to 50-36. Lincoln trimmed the deficit to 52-41, but Adams hit two free throws and then connected on her fifth three-pointer of the game to put Manchester up by 16 with 3:46 left.

“Once we started grabbing the lead we wanted to put them away so they had no hope of coming back,” Adams said.

Now it’s onto the Tournament of Champions as Manchester continues its season of firsts. The Hawks are the No. 3 seed and will take on Group 4 champion Mainland in the quarterfinals. Even though this is uncharted territory for the Ocean County school, their attitude after the game showed they still have a bigger goal in mind.

“There was joy when that clock hit zeros but there’s also this presence about them that they’re focused and hungry for more,” Beauchemin said.

“When you come into a program like this and you continue to make history it gives you that confidence that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” Reynolds said. “Don’t sleep on us. We’re not done yet.”

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