WEST LONG BRANCH - It was a battle of two teams that have done this so many times before over the last 10 years. St. John Vianney and Manasquan faced off for the eighth time in the Shore Conference Tournament since 2014 with SJV holding a one -game edge over the Warriors entering Sunday's championship game at OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University.

The Lady Lancers, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, held off a late Manasquan run to make it a two-game edge, defeating No. 5 Manasquan, 33-27, to win their fifth straight Shore Conference championship. 

These two teams have won 9 out of the last 11 SCT titles, with only Manchester (2019) and St. Rose (2017) lifting a banner during that span. 

Both teams had something to prove after Manasquan beat St. John Vianney on Jan. 11 to hand SJV its first defeat against a Shore Conference team since St. Rose beat SJV in the South Jersey Non-Public A Final in March of 2019. That is also the same year the Lady Lancers were last defeated in the SCT, falling to Manchester, 58-42, in the final.

In the first meeting back in January, Manasquan controlled the boards and out-rebounded SJV 38-25. The Lady Lancers came out aggressive and attacked the glass to have a 33-24 edge on the rebounding. Sophomore Taylor Sofilkanich grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for SJV.

“When we lost to Manasquan back in January they kicked our butts on the boards,” SJV coach Dawn Karpell said. “Today we were out there competing with them on the glass and that allowed us to win the game.” 

SJV was able to build a 20-10 lead at halftime and led by as many as 12 points during the 3rd quarter. Senior Julia Karpell, who finished with a game-high 14 points, started a 8-0 run in the second quarter when she knocked down her first of two 3-pointers in the quarter. Her second 3-pointer put SJV up 20-9 towards the end of the first half.

St. John Vianney senior Julia Karpell. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
St. John Vianney senior Julia Karpell. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)

“I knew that I am a senior and I need to step up and this was the time,” the younger Karpell said. “I have been here the last two years and last year I hit the big three at the end of the game and I came out hot in the second quarter. I just really came out and really delivered.”

The Lady Lancers were able to get the lead to 12 points in the early stages of the third quarter, but Manasquan stormed back on a 8-0 run. The Warriors created turnovers that led to easy layups for sophomore Jordyn Hollawell and junior Olivia Shaughnessy. 

Manasquan cut the deficit to two, 24-22, after senior Hope Masonius made a spectacular pass around her back to senior Katie Collins for a lay-up.  SJV, which called timeout when it was 28-24, responded when Sofilkanich scored two straight baskets to get the lead back to six points. 

“Taylor is a kid who really really wants it,” Coach Karpell said. “A couple of weeks ago when we played Morris Catholic she was upset with her playing time. Her and I had a real heart-to-heart and told her something I needed her to show and she bought into owning the defensive end and owning the boards and doing what she needed to do.”

Manasquan was able to get within one point with under two minutes left when senior McKenna Karlson put back a rebound to make it 28-27. SJV responded right back again when Karpell was able to make a shot right under the basket to make it 30-27 with 1:16 left in the game. The Warriors would not score the rest of the game and Karpell knocked down two foul shots to extend the lead further.

“Her leadership has been tested throughout the year and I thought today she played like a senior,” Coach Karpell said about her daughter, Julia. “She hit shots when we needed them, she got rebounds and she did incredible things from a leadership angle we just needed for us to get to that victory.”

The game started out slow after Collins, who finished with a team-high 10 points, drained a 3-pointer on the first shot of the game. The Collins 3-pointer would be the only one made by Manasquan in the game as they missed the next 14 attempts. SJV went on a 7-0 run over and held Manasquan scoreless until the final seconds of the quarter to go into the second quarter up 7-5. 

The Lady Lancer’s zone defense caused problems for Manasquan, forcing them to turn the ball over five times in the first quarter and the Warriors finished the game with double-digit turnovers. Sofilkanich made her presence known on the defensive side of the floor finishing with three blocks and one steal. 

“We have a lot of leaders, but we really needed someone to step up and talk through the backend,” Sofilkanich said. “I am back there and I can see everything so I try to point out every single thing which was a really big help in our 3-2 (defense).”

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