Photo Gallery by Bill Normile

TOMS RIVER – The WOBM Christmas Classic served as a launching pad last season for the Manasquan girls basketball team, which won the Shore Conference Tournament and was one win away from an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title.

Listen to the game broadcast at the end of this report

This year, the Warriors treated the WOBM championship game as a canvas on which to construct a defensive masterpiece.

Manasquan held Middletown South to a single point and without a field goal for a stretch of more than 17 minutes en route to a 62-27 win over the Eagles. Middletown South scored only 13 points over the final three quarters and did not convert a second-half field-goal attempt until 13.1 seconds remained in the fourth quarter.

Marina Mabrey (left) scored 28 points and the Manasquan defense locked down Alexandra Balsamo (right) and Middletown South on Tuesday. (Photo by Bill Normile)

“It seemed like our defensive intensity wasn’t there in the first quarter,” Manasquan sophomore guard Stella Clark said. “Once we started talking more, we started to get a little more confidence. We started to really put pressure on their guards and everything just clicked after that.”

Senior Marina Mabrey scored 28 points to cap her tournament MVP performance, which included a WOBM record 104 total points in the four-game tournament, an average of exactly 26 per game. Mabrey was also an all-tournament performer as a freshman for Manasquan in 2011, when the Warriors won the first of their three WOBM championships in the last four years.

“The good thing about this tournament is we get four games in with a chance to play some good competition and it allowed us to try some things on both ends,” Mabrey said. “We’re still at the point in the season where we are trying to figure some things out and I think today was good because we tried out a new look defensively and we did pretty well with it.”

Freshman Dara Mabrey also scored 12 points and senior Courtney Hagaman added 10 points in the win. Hagaman and Clark (six points on Tuesday) were named to the all-tournament first team, while Dara Mabrey earned second team honors.

Middletown South actually jumped out to a 12-9 lead on Tuesday and trailed Manasquan 17-14 at the end of the first quarter. The Warriors led 30-23 when Dara Mabrey nailed a 3-pointer that began a 22-0 run, which included a 19-0 advantage in the third quarter.

“Somebody said something to me about it when I was on the bench,” Hagaman said of the scoreless run. “You don’t really notice it when you’re in the middle of the game, but once we were aware of it, we definitely fed off of it. You just try to keep getting stops every time down the court.”

Photo by Bill Normile

After allowing 14 points in the first quarter, Manasquan turned to a match-up zone that it had not played this season and had just installed over the last several practices, according to Marina Mabrey. The result was a 1-for-24 shooting performance from the field by Middletown South in the second half with only four total points despite committing only four turnovers during the drought.

“We had played that defense in some games, but not much in practice so we weren’t really sure where to bump and where to help in certain situations,” Mabrey said. “At halftime, (Coach Lisa Kukoda) showed us where to bump and when we need someone to get to the corner and that helped make it easier.”

Middletown South also hurt its cause by shooting 10-for-27 from the free-throw line in the game and 2-for-13 from the line in the second half.

“We were expecting a closer game,” Mabrey said. “We have a lot of respect for (Middletown South) and because of that, we came in focused and ready to play hard. I think this was just a case of us being really focused and when we play like that, we’re hard to beat.”

Manasquan won last year’s tournament without Mabrey, who did not officially transfer to Manasquan from Point Pleasant Beach until Jan. 6, 2014. Hagaman and Clark were key contributors during last year’s WOBM run and in addition to seven players contributing to the scoring, the Warriors showed depth to go with the crop of returning talent.

“We’re hoping we can go eight or nine deep once we get late in the season and I think tonight we saw a lot of different people contribute,” Mabrey said. “I think we had that going by the end of last year and it’s something we’re working towards now.”

“Winning this tournament last year was a big deal for us and definitely a great feeling for me because I was getting a chance to play as a freshman,” Clark said. “It’s definitely motivation when you see your name as defending champions. It makes you want to win again and show everyone that we’re still a team to beat.”

Box Score

Manasquan 62, Middletown South 27






Manasquan (6-0)






Middletown South (5-1)







Middletown South (27): Angela DeBartolome 1 0-0 3, Alexandra Balsamo 0 1-6 1, Madison Curtis 1 1-2 3, Julia Valkos 3 5-7 11, Stephanie Karcz 2 3-10 7, Haley Delonzo 1 0-0 2, Brianne Naughton 0 0-2 0, Roberta Montes 0 0-0 0, Jill Falvey 0 0-0 0, Hannah Fite 0 0-0 0, Gabby Cook 0 0-0 0. Totals: 8 10-27 27

Three-pointers: DeBartolome

Manasquan (62): Stella Clark 2 1-3 6, Dara Mabrey 5 0-0 12, Marina Mabrey 12 3-3 28, Courtney Hagaman 5 0-0 10, Addie Masonius 0 1-2 1, Victoria Galvan 1 1-2 3, Carly Geissler 1 0-0 2, Maggie Kelly 0 0-0 0, Molly Read 0 0-0 0 , Alex Kurtz 0 0-0 0, Gillian Black 0 0-0 0, Emma McMenaman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 6-10 62

Three-pointers: Clark, D. Mabrey 2, M. Mabrey


All-Tournament Teams

MVP: Marina Mabrey, Manasquan

First Team

Chelsea Crowe, Donovan Catholic

Alex Barazotti, Red Bank Catholic

Stephanie Karcz, Middletown South

Courtney Hagaman, Manasquan

Stella Clark, Manasquan

Second Team

Sam Famulare, Freehold Twp.

Alexandra Balsamo, Middletown South

Maureen Coakley, Red Bank Catholic

Julia Valkos, Middletown South

Dara Mabrey, Manasquan


Click the PLAY button to hear the game segment. RIGHT CLICK the DOWNLOAD link to download a free MP3 file.

First Half


Second Half