Girls Basketball: Manasquan Wins 2nd WOBM Classic Title in 3 Years
Manasquan had already shown under second-year coach Lisa Kukoda that it was a team to be respected, so the next step entailed getting over the hump against a perennial Shore Conference power.
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The second-seeded Warriors did just that on Monday night at Pine Belt Arena, riding an outstanding defensive effort and a game-high 20 points by senior forward Sam Sullivan to a 50-36 victory over top-seeded Red Bank Catholic to win their second WOBM Christmas Classic title in three seasons. Sullivan was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, and junior guard Courtney Hagaman earned first-team All-Tournament honors.
"It is a big confidence-booster,'' Hagaman said. "It really shows that we can do it and beat great teams like RBC."
Manasquan did an excellent job defensively against the Caseys, who shot 10-for-49 (20 percent) from the field, including 2-for-20 from 3-point range, and had 16 turnovers.
It also marked the first win against the Caseys (4-1) in five tries under Kukoda, who played for veteran RBC coach Joe Montano in the early 2000s. RBC beat Manasquan in overtime in the season opener earlier this month.
"We're excited to finally beat one of these big teams, especially RBC, but we can't be content,'' Kukoda said. "We have to keep our eyes moving forward. (The win) was bittersweet a little bit. It's friendly beforehand, but once the game gets started, we both want our teams to do the best that they can."
Once Manasquan took a 4-3 lead on a bucket by Sullivan in the first quarter, the Warriors (4-1) never trailed again. Playing on the big stage for the first time, freshman guard Stella Clark gave them an immediate boost, scoring eight of her nine points in the first quarter to give them a 19-7 lead while the defense forced RBC into 2-for-12 shooting in the period. Clark splashed home a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the final seconds of the period to push the lead to double digits.
"I was a little nervous at first, but once we got a big lead going, I felt confident that we had the game,'' Clark said. "Playing them once already was really helpful because we knew more about them and what they can do."
Sullivan also had six first-quarter points to set the tone for a big night.
"It's awesome when our guards are on because they're so focused on me from the start of the game that once our guards start hitting shots, it loosens it up for me inside,'' Sullivan said.
"We've said that from the beginning of the season that Sam's a great player and teams know that, so they're going to focus on her, so we need our guards to knock down some big shots,'' Kukoda said.
A 3-pointer by Hagaman pushed the lead to 26-9 with 5:10 left in the second quarter before the Caseys began to claw their way back into the game. RBC forced seven turnovers in the second quarter and was relentless on the offensive glass to create second shots and free-throw opportunities. Guard Alex Barazotti had six of her team-high 10 points in the quarter to cut Manasquan's lead to 28-23 at the half.
Manasquan all but put the game away with a stellar third-quarter defensive effort in which it forced five turnovers and created offense by coming out with full-court pressure and extending its defense in the halfcourt. The Warriors held the Caseys to four points in the period, and Sullivan dropped in eight points to help push the lead to 41-27 going into the fourth quarter.
"I think we caught them off guard with that (pressure),'' Hagaman said.
"We decided in that first and third quarter that we needed to control the tempo of this game,'' Kukoda said. "I think our press worked well for us and gave us momentum. I think that the girls just gave a great team effort, and we did the little things that we didn't do the first time around. I was really happy with the pressure we had, and I think we did a really good job of rotating."
Manasquan particularly did a good job against Barazotti and senior Grace Fallon, a pair of standouts for the Caseys who both were named to the All-Tournament first team. Fallon did not have a field goal in finishing with seven points, and Barazotti was held to four second-half points.
"I think this time we held their best players better than last time, and we moved the ball better,'' Clark said.
"Our focus was to help on them, to give a little bit of a cushion for a second to process defensively,'' Kukoda said about Fallon and Barazotti.
RBC never got closer than 12 points in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors took home their first title in a season they hope ends with multiple championships. They now will resume their schedule in Class A Central, one of New Jersey's toughest divisions.
"It feels amazing,'' Sullivan said. "We're just excited to play bigger teams like SJV and Rumson now because we have confidence."
Monsignor Donovan's Dana Carbone and Wall's Ellen Dougherty joined Fallon, Hagaman and Barazotti on the All-Tournament first team. The All-Tournament second team selected by the coaches was Freehold Township's Tori Wagner, Monsignor Donovan's Chelsea Crowe, Point Boro's Lindsey Havens, Jackson Memorial's Shena Vega, and Wall's Sydney Darby.
Manasquan 50, Red Bank Catholic 36
Manasquan (50): Black 0 0-0 0, Masonius 1 2-3 4, Bryant 0 0-0 0, Clark 3 2-3 9, Zito 0 0-2 0, Sullivan 9 2-5 20, Ford 1 1-2 3, Palombi 0 0-0 0, Hagaman 3 4-4 12, Hart 1 0-0 2, Gavlan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 11-19 50.
Red Bank Catholic (36): Montagne 0 0-0 0, Larkins 2 0-0 5, Fallon 0 7-10 7, Coakley 0 2-2 2, Carroll 0 0-0 0, Barazotti 3 4-5 10, Lynch 1 1-2 4, McMenaman 3 0-0 6, Robinson 1 0-0 2, Conroy 0 0-2 0. Totals: 10 14-21 36.
Manasquan (4-1) 19 9 13 9 - 50
RB Catholic (4-1) 7 16 4 9 - 36
Three-pointers: (M) Hagaman 2, Clark; (R) Larkins, Lynch. Fouled out: None.
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Pre Game/1st Quarter
4th Quarter/Post Game