SCT Final Preview: Breaking down Manasquan
For Dara Mabrey to hint at a career still a bit unfilled may sound somewhat absurd. Yet, the sentiments are pure, opening a window into what makes the Manasquan standout tick and among the most competitive athletes to ever grace a playing surface in the Shore Conference.
Her resume reads like Hall of Famer. A two-time Kerwin Award winner, bestowed annually upon the best player in the Shore Conference. A Tournament of Champions title as a freshman, three straight NJSIAA Group 2 state crowns and a SCT championship. Oh yeah, don’t forget 1,919 career points, leaving her 81 shy of joining her older sisters Michaela and Marina in the 2,000-point club.
And, she is committed to Virginia Tech.
Mabrey is a risk taker and a gamebreaker. A playmaker with a creative passing eye, delicate shooter’s touch and…unfinished business? If you don’t believe us, just ask for her take on Saturday’s Shore Conference Tournament final pitting the second-seeded Warriors opposite top-seeded St. John Vianney on Saturday at 6 p.m. in OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University.
“It means a lot because this group of girls is so special to me,” Mabrey said. “I want to leave everything I possibly can with them…goals for them to achieve and higher expectations. I want to win it for coach (Lisa) Kukoda, who has taught me so much.”
A Mabrey on a mission is a dangerous one and a subject that St. John Vianney will devote a great deal of attention to in an effort to bottle some of her magic. The trick will be to disarm a mystical wand that steers the Warriors.
Her robust 22.1 points per game overshadows a style far more rounded. A staunch defender ever since she emerged on the scene as a freshman, Mabrey is the catalyst of a unit loyal to man to man but ventures enough to employ the occasional 2-3 zone. Besides collecting 3.0 steals a contest, she averages 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
The last stat may be the most important in terms of unlocking the Warriors’ firepower. Junior Faith Masonius (18.7 ppg., 10.2 rpg., 3.4 apg., 2.4 spg.), a 6-0 swing who verballed to Maryland, has elevated her game to greater heights. Always one of the most exceptional passers out of the high post, she plays freely in the halfcourt, a threat from distance as much as she is on the blocks. She can run the break while looking over the top of most defenses (which won’t be the case against a sizable St. John Vianney lineup), works shrewdly off the ball and hammers the glass.
Junior guard Lola Mullaney (14.8 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) possesses a deft perimeter touch to offset her timely cuts to the rim and can play bigger than her 5-10 frame while senior guard Carly Geissler (4.5 ppg., 2.8 apg.) can spell Mabrey on the point and has developed into an underrated shooter willing to step into opportunities when enticed by a clean look. She, too, keeps everyone involved with her smart distribution.
Inside, rugged senior forward Emma McMenaman (3.4 rpg., 1.0 bpg.) aggressively challenges those who trespass into the paint with careful challenges to complement her work on the boards. And, the Warriors have some dangerous reserves itching for opportunity in junior guard Annie Mako and freshman guard Maci Black.
The degree of separation between Manasquan and St. John Vianney is THISCLOSE. The Warriors play with an edge that emanates from Mabrey but can count on the Lancers to give as good as they get.
Geissler and Mabrey must withstand Vianney’s full-court press when instituted, utilizing Masonius as the fulcrum in the middle who can kick quickly outside to guards in motion to get Manasquan advantages attacking the basket or, at minimum, settled in to halfcourt sets. With six-footers Sarah Furch and Brelynn Bellamy, along with 5-11 Sajada Bonner and 5-11 Madison Doring, milling underneath for SJV, the Warriors have to put forth a concerted effort to neutralize SJV in the rebounding department.
Manasquan (23-2, 13-1 in Class B North)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Middletown North, 65-22, No. 7. Toms River North, 66-38, and No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, 55-37.
Head Coach: Lisa Kukoda, 6th season (160-29)
Prior SCT Final Appearances: 7
SCT Championships: 4 (1981, 1983, 2014, 2015)