TOMS RIVER - It took Manasquan sophomore Faith Masonius less than a minute Sunday in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinals to surpass her point total from the last time her Warriors girls basketball team played rival Red Bank Catholic, but the 6-foot-1 forward was not merely looking to play better this time around. She wanted to be the difference maker.

Masonius went from dormant to dominant, scoring 12 of her 17 points in the first half and added seven points and three assists to ignite a 74-45 rout over RBC that propelled Manasquan into the Tournament of Champions final for an unprecedented fourth straight year.

"It's unbelievable," fifth-year Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said of the fourth straight trip to the final. "It has everything to do with the group of girls that we have."

The last time Manasquan and RBC locked up on Jan. 24 during the Shore Conference Class B North regular season, the Caseys held Masonius scoreless while burying her in early foul trouble. Despite Masonius's struggles, however, the Warriors pulled out a 44-42 win over RBC on a long two-point jumper by sophomore Lola Mullaney as time expired.

"I feel like with RBC, I always have a difficult time because they really pack it in so hard and they're really great defensively," Masonius said. "This time, I really did take it to heart. I had to play the way I can play and I can't let anyone stop me."

Manasquan led wire-to-wire on Sunday, with Masonius scoring four of the first six points of the game. The Warriors quickly forced RBC to abandon the 2-3 zone it showed to start the game and by the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Manasquan built a 17-4 lead.

Junior Dara Mabrey did her usual damage on the offensive end with 24 points to lead all scorers. The Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey and Kerwin Award winner had just three points with 1:30 to go in the first half, but finished the second quarter with a bank shot off a spin move and a three-pointer in the final seconds. Mabrey then canned a pair of threes and converted a three-point play during a nine-point third quarter, which ignited a 16-point second half.

"Today, we came together and played the way we know how to," Mabrey said. "Whether we've seen it in the past or not, that was the real us today. I'm hoping that continues into tomorrow."

While Masonius got Manasquan started with eight points in the first quarter and Mabrey closed the half with a pair of baskets, the Warriors defense was the dominant force of the first half. Red Bank Catholic shot just 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) with eight turnovers in the first half. None of the five RBC field goals were assisted, with three coming on putbacks.

"That's been our mentality and our motto during this postseason: put our foot on the gas pedal," said Kukoda, an RBC alumnus and former assistant under coach Joe Montano. "That's got to be something we continue to do for one more night."

Mabrey's three-point play in the third quarter stretched Manasquan's lead to 43-17, the largest of the game to that point. RBC responded by outscoring the Warriors 17-7 over the remainder of the quarter and scored the first two points of the fourth to pull within 50-36.

With RBC chipping away, Manasquan put the game out of reach with another 17-4 run to build an insurmountable 67-40 advantage.

Mabrey and Masonius were the only Manasquan players in double-figure scoring, but three more players chipped in with at least eight points. Senior Stella Clark poured in nine points, while fellow senior Addie Masonius and Mullaney each added eight. Mullaney also had seven rebounds, while Addie Masonius contributed five rebounds and four assists.

Junior Rose Caverly led Red Bank Catholic with 11 points, four rebounds and six assists. Caverly is among a quartet of returning regulars for RBC next year, along with fellow juniors Katie Rice, Hayley Moore and Amanda Hart.

Senior Maureen Coakley scored nine points in her final game and is one of three seniors who depart after leading RBC to its deepest NJSIAA postseason run since 2013. Leading scorer Josie Larkins finished with six points and point guard Tia Montagne scored all five of her points in the first half.

The two regular-season meetings between the B North rivals were decided by a combined six points, including one at the buzzer. Manasquan had to consider the cliché that it is hard to beat a good team three times, but it turned out the first two games were the hard games against the Caseys.

"We didn't like that comment and we heard it from a few people," Mabrey said. "Someone said we couldn't do something and I know that made everybody angry and they came into the game showing it. To hear, 'You can't beat them three times,' our response was, 'No. Yes we can.'"

Clark and Addie Masonius have played key roles on all four of Manasquan's Tournament of Champions finalists over the last four years. The Warriors set the record with three straight championship game appearances last year and also won the T of C in 2012, giving the program five championship appearances in six years.

Those five seasons are also the only seasons that Manasquan has ever qualified for the T of C. The Warriors will pursue their third T of C title on Monday night at Sun Bank Arena in Trenton, where they will take on fourth-seeded Franklin. While Manasquan is in its fourth straight title game, Franklin will be playing in its first after knocking off No. 1 Rutgers Prep on Sunday - the second time the Warriors defeated the Argonauts this season.

"Those two common factors are Stella and Addie," Kukoda said. "It's about their work ethic, the way that they lead, the way that they challenge their teammates. For us to be able to have all of these other players step in and do big things for us, it's just a great, great accomplishment that says a lot about the girls and what they've done."

While Franklin and Manasquan did not meet during the season, Manasquan did play Rutgers Prep, which handed Manasquan its first loss of the season, 62-54, on Jan. 29.

"They (Rutgers Prep) were big and athletic and so is Franklin," Mabrey said. "We just need to focus on putting a body on somebody and not letting them cut right to the basket and get a rebound.

"That game (Rutgers Prep) seems like a long time ago. We've had more competitive games since then and we're constantly adjusting. I think it should be similar because of their size, but you can't change much at this point. We've only got 24 hours, so it's probably just going to come down to who has more heart."


Box Score

Manasquan 74, Red Bank Catholic 45

Red Bank Catholic (28-4)49211145
Manasquan (31-2)1616182474

Red Bank Catholic (45): Tia Montagne 2 0-0 5, Josie Larkins 3 0-0 6, Maureen Coakley 4 0-0 9, Katie Rice 2 0-0 5, Rose Caverly 3 5-6 11, Hayley Moore 2 0-0 6, Amanda Hart 1 0-0 3, Eliza Srinivasan 0 0-1 0, Fabien Eggenschwiler 0 0-0 0, Julia Setaro 0 0-0 0, Annetta Panayides 0 0-0 0, Maddie Fagan 0 0-0 0, Nicole Sanford 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 5-7 45

Three-pointers: Montagne, Coakley, Rice, Moore 2, Hart

Manasquan (74): Stella Clark 3 1-2 9, Dara Mabrey 7 7-9 24, Faith Masonius 8 1-1 17, Carly Geissler 1 0-0 2, Addie Masonius 3 2-2 8, Lola Mullaney 4 0-0 8, Victoria Galvan 2 0-0 4, Nikki Stevens 0 0-0 0, Annie Mako 0 2-2 2, Emma McMenaman 0 0-0 0, Maggie Kelly 0 0-0 0, Annie Heenan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 13-16 74

Three-pointers: Clark 2, Mabrey 3


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