TOMS RIVER – Manchester got exactly what it desired.

Want to entice the Hawks to play fast? It doesn’t take much. All they need is a basketball and some lanes to motor through. Dare to challenge them on the glass? Better have a trampoline because this crew can jump out of the gym. And, if you think their mind is solely on scoring, equip them with a specific defensive concentration and just see what happens.

Marlboro, the upstart seventh seed riding its unique style based in stirring a frenzied pace, was the unwilling patient served a dose of medicine with a familiar flavor. The Mustangs got every bit of what defines top-seeded Manchester, all rolled up within the blur of an overwhelming blitz fueled by speed, athleticism and one that captured the top-seed Hawks in all of their glory.

Leading by a mere two points less than three minutes into the second quarter, Manchester flipped a switch and in seemingly an instant, a tight game turned into a one-sided affair. By halftime, its advantage swelled to 18…and it only got larger.

Leilani Correa and tournament MVP Destiny Adams pumped in 27 points apiece and each was a centerpiece during the most heightened portions of an offensive eruption that powered Manchester to an 83-41 victory over Marlboro for its second straight WOBM Christmas Classic title on Sunday night at RWJBarnabas Health Arena.

Correa was the primary scoring source at the outset of the tear, dropping in 14 during a 25-9 second quarter that gave the Hawks a 39-21 lead at the half. Adams, who became just the second player in the 35-year history of the tournament to win back-to-back MVP honors, kept the good times going for Manchester (7-0) in the third by pouring in 20 to bankroll a 33-4 display that expanded the margin to 72-25.

“We like to play fast because our transition brings our success,” said Adams, a point validated by the 23 points the Hawks converted out of the 17 turnovers they induced while breaking the game wide open. “Marlboro has been running and running this whole tournament. We wanted to run them up and down the floor and see if we could tire them out.”

While the transition points reaped in the open floor were critical, so too, was the Hawks’ work on the boards. Their height advantage and spring underneath against an undersized Marlboro cast who works the glass with quickness and guts was instrumental at both ends of the court, limiting the Mustangs (6-1) to one-and-done trips while prolonging Manchester possession with favorable outcomes.

Destiny Adams of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Destiny Adams of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The Hawks grabbed nine offensive rebounds with five directly converted into putbacks during what turned out to be an unfathomable 53-8 burst in a game-time span of 13:11 and fashioned an overall 47-35 edge on the boards.

Beyond the pure advantage of the numbers was the wave of rebounders Manchester sent to the glass, activity that shed light on the Hawks' unified work ethic. Senior Dakota Adams backed her 10 points with five rebounds, hustling junior guard Serenity Anderson cleared seven and point guard Kemari Reynolds pulled down a half dozen.

“It was emphasized to use our size on the boards because we’re so much bigger than them and could beat them inside,” said Adams, who gripped 13 rebounds.

“Everyone contributed on the boards,” added Correa, who pulled down 11 caroms. “We could out jump them and were more athletic. And, everyone on this team can finish around the rim.”

Correa touched on another element within win. Manchester repeatedly sought out the high-percentage look by getting inside the heart of Marlboro’s defense. The payoff? A whopping 27 layups amid their overall 34 field goals.

“On the offensive end, it was all about positioning and carving out space,” said Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin. “We did a good job of getting shots close to the basket and limiting long rebounds. That was important for us.”

Destiny Adams of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Destiny Adams of Manchester (Photo by Paula Lopez)

But, enough gushing about the offense. Manchester played smart defensively as well. Box outs were pivotal inside for sure, but close outs along the arc deserved some props, too. Marlboro shooters were afforded little space on the perimeter, their release on 3-point bids repeatedly contested.

"They play so many girls. We told our girls no matter who you are on consider her the best shooter in the building," said Beauchemin. "They stretched their range. We had to stay with our close outs. Once we created a couple misses, everything started to change."

The loss was a sour ending to a sweet week of work put in by Marlboro, which toppled 10th-seeded Neptune, second-seeded Middletown South and third-seeded Toms River North on its path to the finals. The Mustangs averaged 70.3 points a game in that run-up to the championship game against three teams known for their stingy defense.

Junior guard Sam Nocco led Marlboro with 11 points and sophomore guard Laura Morehead came off the bench to score eight.

“I have to give incredible credit to Dave and his entire team,” praised Marlboro coach Brad Hagensen of Manchester. “They played great. They really stepped up on a big stage, second half especially. But, I’m also so proud of our kids. We had to play our best in order to compete with a team of this caliber. They are an elite team in the state.”

Box Score

Marlboro (6-1)                  12           09           04           16 --- 41
Manchester (7-0)             14           25           33           11 --- 83

Marlboro: Alexandra O’Hare 1-0-1-3; Gisella Romeo 1-0-0-2; Sam Nocco 0-3-2-11; Meghan Gill 0-0-0-0; Ashley Horowitz 0-0-0-0; Sammy Jay 1-1-0-5; Danielle Schlesinger 0-1-0-3; Samantha Slofkiss 1-0-0-2; Theresa Besso 0-1-0-3; Laure Morehead 1-2-0-8; Brianna Diaz 1-0-2-4, Jessica Riepe 0-0-0-0.

Manchester: Myah Hourigan 1-0-0-2; Amyah Bray 2-0-1-5; Nahkaleigh Hayes-Jones 0-1-0-3; Kemari Reynolds 1-0-2-4; Leilani Correa 10-1-4-27; Morgan Brustman 0-0-0-0; Dakota Adams 4-0-2-10; Destiny Adams 11-1-2-27; Victoria LaBrecque 1-0-0-2; Serenity Anderson 0-1-0-3; Emily Barron 0-0-0-0.


WOBM Christmas Classic All-Tournament Team

MVP: Destiny Adams, Manchester

First Team

Jenna Paul, Toms River North
Gisella Romeo, Marlboro
Sammy Jay, Marlboro
Kemari Reynolds, Manchester
Leilani Correa, Manchester

Second Team

Myasia Jackson, Ewing
Jaycee Lowe, Ewing
Dakota Adams, Manchester
Brielle Bisogno, Toms River North
Meghan Murray, Red Bank


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