Shark Bite: Mako sparks Manasquan over St. Rose in OT
MANASQUAN - The point has been impressed upon Annie Mako. From the Manasquan coaching staff to imploring teammates who recognize both her skill and value, the junior guard has been the subject of encouragement designed to instill trust in her talent, to see the potential they all view within her 5-7 frame.
Granted, when surrounded by high-profile scorers like Dara Mabrey, Faith Masonius and Lola Mullaney, the lure of being more deferring can tend to override the instincts to shoot, no matter how clean the look.
Apparently, Mako has cleared that obstacle.
Left virtually unattended, Mako accepted a feed from Mullaney, had time to set her feet and confidently buried a straightaway 3-pointer at the outset of overtime. The bucket not only electrified a standing-room-only crown, but it energized the third-ranked Warriors and willed them down the stretch to outlast No. 2 St. Rose, 50-44, on Saturday in the latest riveting chapter in one of New Jersey’s fiercest rivalries.
“I’ve been telling her all season ‘you need to make people respect your shot.’ It was the perfect time to pull the trigger,” said Mabrey. “The gym lit up. That was a game-changer.”
On the eve of the Shore Conference Tournament seeding, Manasquan (20-2) all but assured itself of no less than the two seed, most likely behind No. 1 St. John Vianney (20-1). St. Rose (20-2), the defending SCT champion, looks to be comfortably in place for the third seed.
Manasquan, which topped its neighboring rival for the second consecutive season in overtime, can thank two unheralded yet vital cogs for improving its post-season stock. Mako finished with four points – all in overtime – and three rebounds while senior forward Emma McMenaman supplied four points and six boards, notable contributions in light of the absence of injured senior guard Carly Geissler, who was in a walking boot nursing an twisted left ankle.
“Shooting threes like that is normal for me,” noted Mako, who transferred from St. Rose to Manasquan during her freshman year. “I got the ball and there was no one there, so I put it up. I have confidence in myself that it was going to go in and it turned out great.”
And, a much-needed stabilizer for Manasquan (20-2). The Warriors appeared on the verge of taking control in the third. Masonius, who is verbally committed to Maryland, shined at both ends of the court, balancing her variety of offensive exploits that yielded a game-high 23 points with stout resistance against St. Rose senior forward Lucy Thomas.
"It's hard," Masonius said of working each side of the floor against Thomas, a Monmouth University pledge. "She's strong, has nice moves in post and can hit the three. She is a tough matchup. I think I played it well."
Mabrey, who despite limited to a season-low three field goals scored 16, shook off an uncharacteristic chilly shooting display by following up a trey with a foul shot that opened Manasquan's largest lead, 34-22, with 2:49 showing in the stanza.
However, a 3-pointer from junior reserve Maggie Stapleton closed the margin to 35-27 heading to the fourth and was part of a 20-8 surge that rallied St. Rose (20-2). Thomas delivered six consecutive points for the Purple Roses and senior point guard Mikayla Markham drilled a 3-pointer to narrow the margin to 37-36 with 3:35 left.
Senior guard Ariana Dalia put St. Rose momentarily in front with a pair of free throws but was offset by a McMenaman layup with 2:22 remaining. Senior forward Lovin Marsicano converted a pair from the line to get the Purple Roses a 42-39 edge only to have Masonius sink a 20-footer nine seconds thereafter that evened matters and gave way to overtime.
In the extra session, St. Rose was limited to a Markham layup and was 1 for 5 from the floor. Mullaney and Mabrey each knocked down two foul shots and Mako sealed the outcome with a defensive board and subsequent free throw.
“I don’t think she’s really showcased what she can do up to this point in the season,” Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said of Mako. “It will be an even better thing for us if she really starts feeling her groove. She is a very skilled player who we are going to need in some big spots.”
Defense ruled the afternoon as both sides instituted some stringent man-to-man and prominent scorers felt the wrath. Thomas finished with a team-high 14 points and 11 rebounds while Markham scored 10. St. Rose went 11 of 35 from the floor while Manasquan was 15 for 45.