Girls Basketball – Manasquan Storms Past Sayreville and Into WOBM Final
TOMS RIVER - During most of Tuesday's WOBM Christmas Classic semifinal game against Sayreville, the Manasquan girls basketball team was giving away height at four positions but the rebounding numbers - and ultimately the final score - showed the Warriors played much bigger.
Manasquan dominated the offensive glass in the first half and rode a first-quarter run to a 57-31 win over the Bombers. The top-seeded Warriors will play No. 2 Middletown South Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Classic Final at Pine Belt Area for the second straight year after routing the Eagles last year.
"We start four guards but they play much bigger than they are," Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said. "They'll go up for rebounds against anyone and they'll play post defense against anyone."
Sayreville actually scored the first four points of the game, but the Warriors scored the next 13 and grabbed nine offensive rebounds in that stretch alone. Manasquan opened up a 27-11 lead late in the second quarter and led by as many as 28 points.
"Playing big as guards was one of our focuses coming into the season as a team that looks a little undersized on paper," junior Stella Clark said. "We're all fast, little, scrappy guards so when we play together we just need to use that to our advantage. Being all guards, we realized we needed to play big and play fast and our game style had to change a little bit this year compared to last year."
Clark scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead Manasquan and sophomore Dara Mabrey added 16 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Faith Masonius contributed eight points and 12 rebounds while her junior sister Addie handed out five assists.
"I think Addie's done a great job playing big for us at times," Kukoda said. "Dara will get rebounds, Stella will get rebounds, Carly (Geissler) will as well, so I don't think they're scared to guard a bigger player. They kind of see is as a challenge."
While Manasquan played above its collective height Tuesday, the Warriors have not played above their heads, according to their own expectations. Coming off of an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title last year, Manasquan has stormed out to a 5-0 start despite graduating McDonald's All-American and current Notre Dame standout freshman Marina Mabrey as well as fellow starter Courtney Hagaman. The Warriors also lost junior starting center Victoria Galvan and senior Gillian Black for this season - both to a torn ACL.
"Even though we lost an All-American player, every single girl on our team is trustworthy," Clark said. "I can rely on anyone. That's the good thing about our team: we have such good chemistry."
The return of Clark and Dara Mabrey to the starting lineup and the emergence of both Masonius sisters have been enough to keep the defending state champions operating as a contender for a third straight Shore Conference Tournament title. They will look to continue their fast start to the season against a Middletown South team that returns four starters from a Tournament of Champions team a year ago and is also coming off an emotional win on Tuesday.
"It's going to be a physical, really good game," Clark said. "We know them, they know us. We're just going to have to play our game, be very physical, really box out and use our physicality."