GIRLS BASKETBALL: SSN FINAL TOP 10
The Shore Conference once again flexed its muscle, boasting four sectional winners, two state champions and the home of the reigning Tournament of Champions titlist. This marked the fifth consecutive season at least two representatives from the Shore reached the TOC and 18th time in the event’s 30-year history. To put that in its proper perspective, consider this: the next closest conference in that regard is the Super Essex Conference, which has sent multiple teams to the TOC on four occasions.
The Shore was also once again residence to the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year as Manasquan senior guard Dara Mabrey was honored with the award for the second year in a row.
The point? The Shore Conference remains the measuring stick for girls basketball in New Jersey.
1-Manasquan (31-2, 13-1)
The Warriors maximized a 21-game winning streak to end the season by reaping three titles along the way. Manasquan stormed past St. John Vianney, 70-52, in the Shore Conference Tournament final, outlasted Newark Tech, 95-79 for a fifth straight Group 2 state title and upended defending champion Franklin, 72-60, in the Tournament of Champions final. The win in the finale avenged a 50-48 overtime loss in last year’s finale and was driven by a 30 points from senior guard Dara Mabrey – highlighted by 15 in the fourth – 23 points and 15 rebounds from junior swing Faith Masonius and 16 points as well as seven boards out of junior guard Lola Mullaney. Senior guard Carly Geissler stepped up throughout the season with big shots, heady feeds and sound defense while senior forward Emma McMenaman supplied firm, physical interior defense and presence on the boards.
2-St. Rose (28-4, 15-0)
The four losses absorbed – administered by Pickerington Central (Ohio), Manasquan, St. John Vianney and Franklin - were be a combined 14 points, shedding light on the slim degree of separation between the Purple Roses and perfection. The senior nucleus of forwards Lucy Thomas and Lovin Marsicano and point guard Mikayla Markham galvanized with senior forward Ariana Dalia, who put together a breakthrough season, and junior defensive specialist Sam Mikos to steer St. Rose to a Non-Public A state title with 53-38 triumph over IHA. Along the path, it scored revenge with a 47-43 win at SJV three days before dethroning the defending champion, Red Bank Catholic, 73-59, for the South Jersey sectional crown. The Purple Roses held a nine-point advantage against Franklin in the semifinals of the TOC before bowing, 56-53, in overtime. St. Rose got appreciated lifts from juniors Lauren Lithgow and Maggie Stapleton and freshman Abigail Antognoli off the bench.
3-St. John Vianney (25-3, 12-0)
The Lady Lancers were perched atop the poll all the way through until the Shore Conference Tournament final, where the top seed tumbled to second-seeded Manasquan. St. John Vianney reached the title game with a dramatic 39-37 victory over fourth-seeded St. Rose that came down to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior forward Brelynn Bellamy. The starting five of junior point Sarah Karpell, senior guard Madison Doring, junior forward Sajada Bonner, Bellamy and senior forward Sarah Furch engineered a 19-0 start that was halted by a 60-53 road loss to national power Christ the King on Feb. 6. With Karpell, Bonner, Bellamy and freshmen Katie Hill and Christina Whitehead in the mix, SJV will once again be formidable in ’18-’19.
4-Red Bank Catholic (23-6, 12-2)
The Caseys were the only New Jersey team to top Manasquan, scoring a 62-57 victory on Jan. 23. A senior-laden cast guided by Rose Caverly, Hayley Moore, Katie Rice and super sixth-man Amanda Hart rode the composure of its nucleus to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament before falling to Manasquan. RBC regrouped with three straight triumphs, including an impressive road win at Gloucester Catholic, to return to the South Jersey, Non-Public A final, where it chiseled a 17-point halftime deficit down to five early in the fourth only to succumb to St. Rose, 73-59. Freshman Sophia Sabino and junior Fab Eggenschwiler gained experience and wisdom that will be applied favorably in the future.
5-Manchester (26-5, 13-1)
The Hawks set the tone for a championship season by winning the WOBM Christmas Classic in December. They earned a share of the B South title and won a second consecutive South Jersey, Group 2 crown in dominating fashion before losing to Manasquan in the state semifinals. Sophomore point guard Kemari Reynolds established the pace and purpose of the offense while 6-3 swing Destiny Adams introduced herself with a rousing freshman debut. Her junior sister Dakota supplied the muscle in the paint and sophomore guard Serenity Anderson and senior backcourt partner Asha Harper showed offensive balance between penetrating and popping from the perimeter.
6-Toms River North (28-4, 13-1)
Riding some staunch defense and the diversity it could strike offensively, the Mariners backed up an A South title by winning the South Jersey, Group 4 final and reaching the state championship. Junior Jenna Paul blossomed into a consistent point producer who could inflict damage in multiple ways while junior guard Brielle Bisogno, who missed her entire sophomore year with a torn ACL, returned to the fold with a scoring touch and flair for the dramatic, exemplified with her coast-to-coast drive and acrobatic bucket at the buzzer that sent North past, Shawnee, 47-45, in the sectional semifinals. Three days later, the Mariners got revenge for a heartbreaking 37-35 loss to Cherokee in last year’s South Jersey final by pinning the Chiefs with a 41-34 loss, keyed by a career-high 32 points from Paul. Senior forwards Amanda Johnson and Lindsay Cabey supplied tough defense, shooting options and experience leadership while sophomore Kristina Johnson integrated seamlessly into the starting five with her athleticism and sudden scoring bursts. Toms River North got back to the Group 4 state championship for the first time since 2000, losing to defending champ Franklin.
7-Rumson-Fair Haven (17-11, 10-2)
The only two losses the Bulldogs suffered in A Central came at the hands of St. John Vianney, but they also picked up a couple of significant wins. The most notable came on Dec. 28 when senior point guard Tori Hyduke pumped in 28 points and 5-11 freshman Grace Munt added 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 60-57 victory against Franklin, which eventually won its second straight Group 4 state title and reached the TOC final. Hyduke fashioned a dominating senior year, striking for 26.3 points per game. However, a late-season injury cost her three games. Rumson-Fair Haven still managed to reach the Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals, where Hyduke netted 15 in a 57-53 loss to Lincoln. Sophomore Lucy Adams, Munt and freshman Cortland McBarron emerged as promising underclassmen.
8-Donovan Catholic (21-6, 13-1)
The Griffins countered a 2-3 start by running off 17 successive wins, including a 50-49 triumph over Manchester that helped them to a share of the B South title and a 69-68 decision over Jackson Memorial in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament. Seniors Melissa Buxton, Alyssa Hirschy and Molly Collins formed a backcourt capable of catching fire from long range; the trio combined for 131 3-pointers. Six-foot sophomore Jayda Kearney developed into a vital interior figure and classmate Paige Slaven rose to become another viable scoring option. Depleted by injuries late in the season, Donovan Catholic recovered from back-to-back losses to outlast Mount St. Mary, 50-46, in the first round of South Jersey, Non-Public A and gave Gloucester Catholic all it could handle before bowing, 71-65, in the quarterfinals.
9-Jackson Memorial (21-4, 12-2)
Underclassmen ripened quickly to fuel the Jaguars. Sophomores Kristina Donza (13.0 ppg., 35 3-pointers) and Bianca Giordano (6.0 ppg.) teamed with freshman Rachel Capua (11.8 ppg., 36 3-pointers), junior Dani Evans (10.6 ppg, 39 3-pointers) and senior Allison Wanzor (5.7 ppg.) to give Jackson Memorial presence along the perimeter, aggressiveness to the hoop and an unyielding defense that surrendered a mere 36.1 points a game. The Jags lost to Donovan Catholic, 69-68, in overtime in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament and were eliminated in the semifinals of South Jersey, Group 4 by Cherokee, 48-25. However, they were the only team in A South to knock off division champ Toms River North, scoring a 54-41 win on Jan. 30 powered by 23 points from Capua and 19 points and 11 rebounds from Evans.
10-Colts Neck (20-8, 11-1)
Colts Neck suffered one divisional loss – 37-33 to Manalapan – and responded with nine straight wins versus A North rivals en route to the title. Senior Cara Volpe (10.9 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and sophomore Camryn Foltz (12.0 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 2.0 apg., 26 3-pointers) put the gas in the offense’s tank while senior forward Lauren Feaster and junior forward Eva Gibson formed a physical duo inside tough to get position against under the boards. The Cougars, who went on a nine-game win streak midseason, got to the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament and the Central Jersey, Group 4 semifinals.
The Next Five
Red Bank (17-12, 6-6)
Under new coach John Truhan, the Bucs picked up the nuances of his system and truly applied them over the second half of the season. Red Bank offset a 6-8 start by going 11-4 thereafter. It won seven of its final nine, marked by a 49-42 win over Chatham, the Morris County Tournament champion, in the quarterfinals of North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3. The Bucs, who relied on junior Meghan Murray (14.7 ppg.), senior Bridget Tobin (11.5 ppg.) as well as emerging freshmen Caitlyn Decker (9.8 ppg., 34 3-pointers) and Chloe Teter (6.8 ppg.), will be a team to be reckoned with next season.
Marlboro (18-9, 10-2)
The Mustangs dropped a pair of encounters with Colts Neck to finish second in the A North and played a grueling schedule out of division, suffering losses to Ewing, the eventual Central Jersey, Group 3 champion, Manasquan, St. John Vianney, Manchester and Toms River North. However, senior forward Jess Broad (16.8 ppg., 7.2 rpg.) and junior guard Gisella Romeo (13.1 ppg., 6.6 rpg.) were key contributors in wins over Piscataway, the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament champion, and Lodi Immaculate.
Toms River East (18-10, 9-5)
Junior Kamryn Lister (13.1 ppg, ,7,2 rpg., 2.5 spg.) and sophomore Jordyn Madigan (9.0 ppg,, 34 3-pointers) headlined a group that picked off Timber Creek and Hammonton to reach the semifinals of South Jersey, Group 3 before losing to then-unbeaten Mainland. Seniors Sydney Phibbs and Lauren Sampson, along with sophomores Nicole Platten and Emily Maire, gave the Raiders balance and reason to be optimistic about the future.
Holmdel (17-10, 7-5)
A rousing 11-3 start to the season shed light on the playmaking of senior point guard Christina Antonakakis as well as the bright forecast ahead for freshmen Kathleen Antonakakis and Ryann Taylor and sophomores Leah Nolan and Carson Fontana. The underclassmen played pivotal parts for the Hornets and gained invaluable experience against a tough slate of opponents, notably Manasquan, St. John Vianney, Manchester, Rumson-Fair Haven and Toms River North.
Middletown North (15-11, 9-5)
The Lions not only ended a 14-game losing streak to crosstown rival Middletown South, dating back to a 35-34 win on Jan. 4, 2012, they knocked off the Eagles twice on their way to an impressive 9-5 mark in the competitive B North. Seniors Kiera Williams (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg.) and Caleigh McAnuff (11.5 ppg, 57 3-pointers) helped Middletown North to an 11-5 start and the Lions gave West Morris all it could handle in a 56-47 loss in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 quarterfinals.