Girls Basketball Top 10 (March 6)
1-Manchester (29-2, 14-0) Last week: 1
The beat goes on for the reigning Shore Conference Tournament champion, who ran its impressive win streak to 21 on Tuesday by dropping Middle Twp., 61-36, to lift a third consecutive South Jersey, Group 2 trophy. Manchester used a 24-2 outburst in the second quarter, spurred by 15 of senior guard Leilani Correa’s 22 points, to open a 36-9 halftime lead. For the third year in a row, Manchester will face five-time defending Group 2 state champion Manasquan in the state semifinals on Thursday at Central Regional at 5 p.m. The Hawks have primed for the rematch by dialing up their defensive intensity (39.1 ppg.); they have yielded 37.7 points to opponents during their current string of victories, relying on rebounding presence of sisters Dakota and Destiny Adams and staunch backcourt resistance of guards Kemari Reynolds and Serenity Anderson.
2-St. Rose (26-2, 14-0) Last week: 2
The Purple Roses bounced back from the semifinal loss to Manchester in the SCT by marching to a second straight South Jersey, Non-Public A title, capped with a 61-54 triumph over St. John Vianney on Tuesday in the sectional final. Senior sharpshooter Lauren Lithgow shot 9 of 11 from behind the arc and pumped in a career-high 29 points, junior guard Brynn Farrell backed 17 points with 10 rebounds and sophomore point guard Abby Antognoli picked up 11 points, five assists and three steals. Seniors Sam Mikos and Maggie Stapleton give St. Rose presence on the glass and junior Makayla Andrews in an invaluable asset as the sixth man. The Belmar school will meet the winner of the North Jersey final between Immaculate Heart Academy and Pope John in defense of its state crown on Saturday at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River.
3-St. John Vianney (23-4. 14-0) Last week: 3
A senior nucleus of forwards Sajada Bonner (Quinnipiac) and Brelynn Bellamy (William & Mary) and guards Sarah Karpell (Fordham) and Rahmena Henderson (Sam Houston State) saw their run in Holmdel come to a close Tuesday night in a 61-54 loss to St. Rose in the South Jersey, Non-Public A final. The Lady Lancers claimed the B North title with an unblemished run, reached the Shore Conference Tournament final, bowing to Manchester and presented coach Dawn Karpell with her 400th career win during the course of the campaign. Their staunch defense limited opponents to 34.0 points per game.
4-Manasquan (22-6, 12-2) Last week: 4
Can’t spell March without an M and Manasquan has made the month a Big Blue experience for six years running. Senior swing Faith Masonius collected 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists while senior guard Lola Mullaney supplied 21 points, seven boards and three assists to guide the Warriors past Rumson-Fair Haven for a third time this winter, 60-38, for a sixth straight Central Jersey, Group 2 championship, becoming the first public school to accomplish such a feat since Rumson won nine in succession in the same section from 2001 to 2009. A familiar foe awaits in the state semifinals; Manasquan will tangle with Manchester for the third year in a row on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Central Regional for the right to compete for the Group 2 state title.
5-Middletown South (24-5, 10-2) Last week: 8
The Eagles assured that revered head coach Tom Brennan will always fondly recall his 400th career victory. Trailing by nine with under three minutes left in regulation, Middletown South rallied to force overtime against Marlboro before emerging with a wild 80-77 victory in the Central Jersey, Group 4 championship. Junior swing Kayla Richardson deposited all 23 of her points after halftime and senior forward Sam Keenan pumped in a career-high 20, marked by a pair of pivotal 3-pointers during the 10-1 tear that covered the closing 2:53 of the fourth quarter. The triumph avenged a pair of losses at the hands of the Mustangs, evened their season series at 2-2 and punched the Eagles’ ticket to the state semifinal on Thursday at Central Regional at 7 p.m. where Mainland (26-3) and highly-regarded 6-3 junior Kylee Watson await.
6-Red Bank Catholic (19-9, 10-4) Last week: 5
The Caseys rattled off five straight wins before their season came to a close with a 59-32 loss at the hands of St. John Vianney in the South Jersey, Non-Public A quarterfinals. Nonetheless, there is plenty of optimism in regards to how bright the future is on Broad Street. Sophomore point guard Sophia Sabino, junior swing Fab Eggenschwiler and freshmen Justine Pissott and Ally Carman gained priceless experience against top-shelf competition throughout the season and will most certainly apply what they picked up in a positive manner in the years ahead. The Caseys will have to replace the quiet, exemplary senior leadership of Julia Setaro.
7-Rumson-Fair Haven (19-11, 8-6) Last week: 6
A relatively young cast with not a senior to be found amongst its primary rotation made a strong impact on the Shore Conference scene. Of its 11 losses, nine came at the hands of teams ranked above them in the poll in addition to setbacks against University of Newark and Staten Island Academy. The Bulldogs displayed talented depth in the backcourt in the form of freshmen Charlie Rosen and Grace Colucci, sophomores Grace Munt and Cortland McBarron and junior Sophia Passalaqua while its developing frontcourt of junior Lucy Adams, sophomore Chase Boyle and freshman Kaila Scarpa established a chemistry they will be eager to unleash come December.
8-Marlboro (23-8, 11-1) Last week: 7
What a successful and entertaining season it was for the Mustangs, who emerged as arguably the biggest surprise in the Shore. Their wide-open offense designed to get a bang for its buck from 3-point range paid dividends in the form for a whopping 340 triples but, more importantly, an A North division title. Senior guard Gisella Romeo was a season-long catalyst (14.4 ppg., 38 3-pointers) while senior forward Theresa Besso (47 3-pointers), sophomore guard Sammy Jay (48), sophomore swing Laura Morehead (48), junior guard Sam Nocco (40), sophomore forward Jessica Riepe (61) and freshman guard Dani Schlesinger (47) fired at will from long range.
9-Colts Neck (20-8, 11-3) Last week: NR
The Cougars finished second to St. John Vianney in the B North and fashioned a run to the Central Jersey, Group 3 final, falling to Westampton Tech, 55-44. Geared around its stout halfcourt defense, Colts Neck avenged a regular-season loss by topping Middletown North, 42-36, in the quarterfinals before topping Red Bank for a third time, 43-34, in the semis. Junior guard Camryn Foltz (15.8 ppg.) was an offensive force with a vast repertoire while senior twins Eva and Catherine Gibson were interchangeable pieces, as comfortable putting up jumpers as they were finishing on the blocks. Sophomore guard Jess Theising and senior guard Teresa Marsh were shrewd facilitators, hard-nosed defenders and unheralded offensive options.
10-Toms River North (21-7, 13-1) Last week: 9
The fruitful careers for seniors Jenna Paul and Brielle Bisogno ended in a 55-45 loss to eventual South Jersey, Group 4 champion Lenape in the semifinals but their lasting impact, particularly grooming nine first-year varsity members (including six freshmen) will carry on their legacy. The Mariners came together to win the A South title, powered by the interior work of Paul (21.7 ppg., 9.3 rpg., 15 double-doubles), who ended her run with 1,958 points, and ceaseless energy of Bisogno (15.4 ppg., 4.5 apg., 53 3-pointers), who finished with 1,131 points despite missing her entire sophomore year with a torn ACL. Junior swing Kristina Johnson complemented her unsung offense with active defense on the wings while freshmen Faith Wavershak, Sydney Howell, Brandi Manna, Jaclyn Benvenuto and Gia Pissot logged substantial minutes that will serve them well in the future.
On the bubble
Donovan Catholic (21-7, 12-2): The Griffins could make a strong case for access in the Top 10. They lost twice to Manchester while finishing second in B South and absorbed loss to Trenton Catholic and Bishop Ahr, both state-ranked outfits. They took the latter the distance before falling to the Trojans, 49-44, in the South Jersey, Non-Public A quarterfinals. Juniors Paige Slaven, Jayda Kearney and Karolina Jarusevicute will team with sophomore Jordyn Keating, junior Olivia Parlow and freshman Olivia Conroy to make Donovan Catholic just as formidable next year.
Red Bank (20-9, 9-5): The Bucs sprung the upset of the Shore Conference Tournament when they upended Red Bank Catholic, 65-62, in the first round, ending a 23-game losing streak that dated back to 1998. Red Bank took Manasquan to the limit in the quarterfinals, bowing, 61-58, in overtime but made it clear it will be a force next season. Senior guard Meghan Murray will be a tough competitor to replace but a robust and talented sophomore contingent that features Chloe Teter, Caitlyn Decker, Amelia Medolla, Mia Strand and Emma Moriarity, along with junior Abby Bynoe, assures the Bucs will be amongst the contenders with perhaps a higher listing in this poll a year from now.
Toms River East (20-8, 11-3): Relying on a fortified 2-3 zone that surrendered 39.2 points a contest, the Raiders emerged as a team to be wary of throughout the campaign. Seniors Kamryn Lister (13.0 ppg.), who finished with over 1,000 career points, and Adriana Hart teamed with gritty junior Jordyn Madigan (10.9 ppg.), junior sharpshooter Nicole Platten (6.2 ppg. , 41 3-pointers), sophomore Sydney Lorentzen and freshman Lizzie Gillen to form a well-oiled backcourt rotation, balanced by the tireless work of junior Emily Maire and sophomore Natalie Dudar in the paint. The Raiders finished tied for second with Jackson Memorial in the A South and reached the semifinals of South Jersey, Group 3, succumbing to Ocean City, 46-41.
Jackson Memorial (19-8): A fun team to watch, the Jaguars boasted a number of active pieces that melded into a unit that ran off a nine-game win streak in the middle of the season and was on the verge of tying for the A South crown before bowing to Toms River North for a second time, 54-44, on Feb. 8. Senior forward Dani Evans had a breakthrough in the paint (12.4 ppg., 8.6 rpg.), junior guard Kristina Donza (16.8 ppg., 7.4 rpg.) and sophomore guard Rachel Capua (14.0, 6.1 rpg.) blossomed into consistent finishers and junior point guard Bianca Giordano was among the most selfless and creative distributors in the Shore (7.0 apg.). Sprinkle in the versatile depth, defensive passion and rebounding of junior guards Mackenzie Dakin and Ally Vella and the Jags, who along the way picked up career win No. 300 for coach Rachel Goodale, have all the ingredients to make a push forward in ’19-’20.
Trinity Hall (17-9, 13-1): It was a banner season for the Monarchs, who won their first division title by running off 13 straight wins in the B Central after an opening loss to Point Beach. Four losses came to residents in the Top 10 – Marlboro, Middletown South, Rumson-Fair Haven and Manchester – but games against quality opponents have Trinity Hall on the threshold of taking the next step. It lost to Roselle Catholic, 46-37, in the first round of South Jersey, Non-Public B but the setback did little to take the polish off a stellar campaign highlighted by the solid efforts of senior guard Colleen Cusat and promising production of 6-1 junior forward Caitlin Wingertzahn, 5-6 junior guard Maggie Ward, 5-9 junior forward Colleen Kelly and 5-5 freshman guard Haven Dora.
Middletown North (14-14, 9-5): The Lions finished tied for third with Red Bank in the B North and struck an identity as a balanced unit that defends with endless pride. Middletown North yielded 42.3 points per game, by stifling opponents in man-to-man. Junior swing Hayley Stratton teamed with senior guards Melissa Golembieski and Giana McGuaghey, senior forward Gina Palladino, 6-1 sophomore forward Sophia Memon, sophomore guard Victoria Palladino and junior forward Olive Cerbo within an offense that could trust any to score and dispensed the basketball equally amongst its parts. The Lions picked up a 40-23 win over Burlington Twp. in the first round of Central Jersey, Group 3.