Girls Basketball – Manasquan Makes It Three In A Row at WOBM Finals
TOMS RIVER - The Manasquan girls basketball team has found a second home at Pine Belt Arena.
The Warriors added to their trophy case on Dec. 30 with a 67-56 win over Middletown South and have now won three straight and four of the last five WOBM Christmas Classic Tournament championships.
Before the game, the Manasquan group came out for warm-ups sporting red shirts to honor their opponent's head coach, Tom Brennan, who is dealing with medical issues, as a sign of respect and support.
"Coach (Lisa) Kukoda mentioned the idea to us after last night's game, and we pulled together as a team and thought it was the right thing to do for a coach that has given a lot to this sport and is dealing with a lot personally," Manasquan junior captain Stella Clark said. "It was a small way for us to give back."
Once the game got started, Manasquan looked like a team on a mission, jumping out to a 20-4 first quarter lead, capped by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by junior Addie Masonius, who was also the leading scorer in the first quarter with 7 points. On top of her clutch shooting throughout the WOBM Classic, Masonius has come into her own on the defensive end and the offensive boards, totaling 19 rebounds during the tournament while turning into one of Kukoda's go-to players.
"Last season, I struggled a lot with my shooting, so this past offseason I worked a lot on my own so I could be ready to step up and be a big part of this team and do what is needed to help us continue our success," Masonius said.
The Warriors did not let up in the second quarter as they outscored the Eagles 20-15 heading into the locker room. No one was hotter from the field than Dara Mabrey in the second period as she buried three consecutive 3-pointers and added a fourth before the half. Mabrey showed the poise of a veteran leader in this tournament, doing all the small things that don't always show up in the box score. Her communication, movement off the ball and leadership are showing why she is one of the top players in the Shore Conference and state.
Mabrey was named this year's WOBM Christmas Classic Tournament MVP after tallying 59 points, 25 rebounds, 14 steals and 12 assists in four games.
"We don't play for individual stats, we play for each other," Mabrey said. "Tonight it was my turn to step up, and I could not have done it without them (teammates)."
The Eagles did not go away quietly as they came out in the third quarter and outscored the Warriors 22-10 and cut the lead to just five points heading into the final quarter. Middletown South followed the lead of senior Stephanie Karcz, who scored eight of her 15 points in the third quarter to get the Eagles back in the game. Karcz was held to zero points in the first quarter and only two points in the first half, thanks in large part to great defense by Mabrey.
"Steph is a great player, and I knew she was going to be their go-to player, so I stepped up and accepted the challenge tonight," Mabrey said.
With the Warriors' lead cut to eight points, it was Mabrey who took a beautiful pass from Stella Clark with just under five minutes to play for an easy lay-up. The play of Clark and Mabrey has provided Manasquan with one of the best backcourt tandems around and will not be going anywhere anytime soon as Clark is only a junior and Mabrey a sophomore.
"This was the next big step for us in a season of benchmarks for us," Kukoda said. "We opened the season against a tough Rumson squad and then tonight against Middletown South, we knew was going to be a challenge as they are a tough team, and then you add in the extra motivation they were playing with for Tom. We played extremely well and are happy with the win, but we have more goals to accomplish this year."
Kukoda was also extremely proud of the effort she has gotten in the young season from freshman Faith Masonius.
"Faith is a great player and will continue to grow as she gets comfortable and will be very valuable to us and tough as nails for years to come," Kukoda said.
WOBM CHRISTMAS CLASSIC ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
|Stephanie Karcz||Middletown South|
|Alexandra Balsamo||Middletown South|
|Haley Dalonzo||Middletown South|
|Kaitlin Lister||Toms River East|
|Elise Brown||Colts Neck|
|ROBERT "CZ" CZARNIEWSKI MEMORIAL AWARD|
|Samantha Biolablocki||Brick Memorial|