Shore Conference Tournament
Semifinal Round
Tuesday, Feb. 20
At RWJBarnabas Health Arena, Toms River

4-St. Rose (22-2) vs. 1-St. John Vianney (23-1), 6:00 p.m.

St. Rose Purple Roses                                                     

Projected starting lineup                          

4-Sam Mikos (Jr. G 5-10)
10-Mikayla Markham (Sr. G 5-8)
12-Lovin Marsicano (Sr. F 6-1)
13-Ariana Dalia (Sr. F 5-9)
25-Lucy Thomas (Sr. F 6-1)

Key reserves                                            

1-Abigail Antognoli (Fr. G 5-6)
3-Lauren Lithgow (Jr. G 5-8)
21-Maggie Stapleton (Jr. G 5-9)

St. John Vianney Lady Lancers

 Projected starting lineup

13-Sarah Karpell (Jr. G 5-7)
22-Madison Doring (Sr. G 5-11)
23-Sajada Bonner (Jr. F 5-11)
42-Brelynn Bellamy (Jr. F 6-0)
44-Sarah Furch (Sr. F 6-0)

Key reserves

11-Rahmena Henderson (Jr. G 5-8)
25-Katie Hill (Fr. G 5-11)
45-Christine Whitehead (Fr. G 5-9)

We got history: These two are no strangers when it comes to confrontations in the Shore Conference Tournament. Tuesday night will mark the third consecutive year their paths have intersected in the SCT. Two years ago, St. John Vianney eliminated the Purple Roses in the semifinal round en route to their 13th title. Last season, St. Rose repaid the favor, storming to a 56-31 victory in the championship.

What to watch for: St. John Vianney is operating on all cylinders. Each component in tune with her role yet versatile enough to be unpredictable and tough to defensively script against.

Nothing better exemplifies its chemistry than the unified choreography of its full-court press, suffocating and fruitful based on the rate of efficient lateral movement within it and the vast length that makes passing out of traps an unenviable labor. Vianney may pick its spots to spring it in respect to the slick ballhandling of St. Rose senior point guard Mikayla Markham but can recover quickly to fall back into halfcourt man-to-man.

The luxury of extending the defense hinges on scoring the basketball, something that has not been an issue for SJV (66.5 ppg.). Junior point guard Sarah Karpell directs a dizzying halfcourt offense that features constantly moving parts who don’t have a detectable pattern to the end point. Juniors Sajada Bonner and Brelynn Bellamy, along with senior Madison Doring, can all shoot with confidence from the arc or seek routes to the rim. And, senior forward Sarah Furch, a tireless toiler on the glass, effectively finishes on the blocks but knows how to work her way to basket from the high post.

The Lady Lancers also have a deep bench. Junior Rahmena Henderson offers reliable ballhandling and tenacious defense while freshman Katie Hill and Christina Whitehead have made impacts as scorers and can shoot from distance.

St. Rose counters with a nucleus of championship experience. Markham and fellow seniors Lovin Marsicano, Lucy Thomas and Ariana Dalia, along with juniors Sam Mikos and Lauren Lithgow, all played a part in the Purple Roses’ run to the SCT title a year ago.

Markham is a heady executor of the offense, steering it with vision and instinct. Thomas has been a handful to contain as the primary scorer. Her ability to lock a defender to her hip in order to turn and finish on the blocks is balanced by an outside game with effective results. Mariscano shares many of the same attributes, thus posing matchup problems, but also creating space inside for Markham and Mikos to exploit off the dribble.

One of the most unsung elements is Dalia. Her defensive pride is endless and conducted through a staunch, physical style that denies access to the hoop, relentlessly challenges shots and can wear down its subject.

St. Rose also can maintain its standards due to juniors Lauren Lithgow and Maggie Stapleton and freshman Abigail Antagnoli coming off the bench with designs to contribute.

Prediction: St. John Vianney

3-Red Bank Catholic (20-4) vs. 2-Manasquan (22-2), 7:45 p.m.

Manasquan Warriors

Projected starting lineup                                                                            

2-Lola Mullaney (Jr. G 5-10)
10-Dara Mabrey (Sr. G 5-7)
13-Faith Masonius (Jr. F 6-0)
14-Carly Geissler (Sr. G 5-6)
25-Emma McMemanan (Sr. F 5-9)

Key reserves                                                                                                     

4-Maci Black (Fr. G 5-3)
24-Annie Mako (Jr. G 5-7)

Red Bank Catholic Caseys

Projected starting lineup

2-Sophia Sabino (Fr. G 5-8)
11-Fab Eggenschwiler (So. F 6-0)
13-Katie Rice (Sr. F 5-11)
23-Hayley Moore (Sr. G 5-6)
24-Rose Caverly (Sr. G 5-10)

Key reserves

15-Julia Setaro (Jr. G 5-6)
32-Amanda Hart (Sr. G 5-7)

We got history: These two split in the regular season. Manasquan roared to a 60-37 victory on Dec. 19 and Red Bank Catholic got revenge on Jan. 23 with a 62-57 triumph.

What to watch for: Senior guard Dara Mabrey shined in the semifinals, complementing 21 points with some blistering passes that produced nine assists in a 66-38 showing against seventh-seeded Toms River North. However, she hyperextended her left thumb in the fourth quarter and was in noticeable pain. Don’t get the wrong impression. The ultra-competitive playmaker would rather lop off the tender digit than miss this one.

The Warriors also got back senior guard Carly Geissler for the semifinals after missing two games nursing an ankle sprain. She showed no signs of injury on Saturday and is a key facilitator in the halfcourt offense, plus she sticks her nose into a defensive assignment. Junior forward Faith Masonius has bordered on unstoppable, complementing her interior scoring with oozing confidence along the arc. It will be imperative for Red Bank Catholic defenders to shrewdly guard Mabrey, Masonius and junior guard Lola Mullaney any time they possess the ball out high. Play them tight and all three are capable of attacking the rim. Leave a cushion and it’s an open invitation for 3-pointers to rain.

Defense will be the point of emphasis for Red Bank Catholic. The Caseys concede a mere 37.5 points per game but understand doing that against Manasquan, which scores at a 68.6 rate, is a bit inconceivable. If it can find a happy medium and keep the score low, RBC’s chances improve dramatically. Keeping the Warriors’ guards in front is a must and help defense has to react immediately to cut off lanes.

The Caseys have received excellent guidance from senior guard Rose Caverly. Besides infectiously making the extra pass to free shooters, she also instills confidence in those around her by penetrating into the paint with a spirit that encourages teammates to follow suit.

The course of attack could vary – and the lineup might, too. Red Bank Catholic buried 10 3-pointers in its 68-33 semifinal win over 11th-seeded Colts Neck on Saturday and senior reserve Amanda Hart led the perimeter assault with four treys among her career-high 20 points. Don’t fault coach Joe Montano if he rides the hot hand and inserts Hart into the starting lineup. With her joining Caverly and senior Hayley Moore in the backcourt, the Caseys have three lethal long-range options to stretch a defense thin.

All the perimeter firepower, which also includes dangerous streak shooters like freshman Sophia Sabino and junior Julia Setaro, could draw defenders away from the paint and entice senior swing Katie Rice to pursue attacks inside off the wings. Yet, Rice is also an integral part of the perimeter punch.

She is also valued for her defensive versatility, fully capable of guarding all five positions with the utmost confidence. Her length, quickness and anticipation could be used in different ways throughout the contest.

Prediction: Manasquan

More From Shore Sports Network