Shore Conference Tournament
Semifinal Round
Tuesday, February 19
At RWJBarnabas Health Arena, Toms River

TOMS RIVER – Adversity is generally the point in which seasoned upperclassmen are tasked with responding accordingly, to rely on their experience and acquired poise in the face of trying times to combat the challenge.

Leave it to Madison St. Rose to buck such conventional thinking.

The freshman was a source of pre-season excitement at St. John Vianney, a 5-9 southpaw guard gifted, versatile and immune to pressure. All were intangibles noticed in November. That doesn’t guarantee such traits will translate under the extremely tense climate associated with tournament time.

In the case of St. Rose, she’s been as good if not better than advertised, a point she drove home with a variety of critical contributions during a second-half tear that flipped an eight-point deficit in the third quarter into an eight-point advantage in the fourth.

Her hustle, guile and guts were a perfect complement to the perimeter marksmanship of senior forward Brelynn Bellamy, two deciding factors as top-seeded St. John Vianney overcame a valiant performance from senior swing Faith Masonius to outlast fourth-seeded and defending champion Manasquan for a 53-51 victory Tuesday night in the semifinal round of the Shore Conference Tournament at RWJBarnabas Health Arena.

“Before the game I was pretty nervous,” admitted St. Rose, who did a great job of channeling any jitters into positive production, compiling nine of her 11 points in the second half to balance five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. “I just wanted to keep my composure and do what I can to help us win this game. I had my teammates behind me. They had my back.”

And, St. Rose reciprocated by covering theirs. From creeping in to smother ballhandlers on trap to sticking her neck out to absorb a pair of energizing charges, she did whatever she deemed necessary to infuse enthusiasm.

It worked.

Down, 37-29, following a layup by Masonius, who was inspiring in collecting 33 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, St. John Vianney sprung from the hole by embarking on a 16-0 run. Senior point guard Sarah Karpell ignited the comeback with a free throw and St. Rose heightened it with a putback at one end and a rejection at the other. Karpell’s 3-pointer with under a minute left in the period narrowed the deficit to 37-35, heading into the fourth.

Faith Masonius of Manasquan (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Faith Masonius of Manasquan (Photo by Ray Richardson)

St. Rose assured the mounting momentum stayed in place, burying a three off a Bellamy dish to put the Lady Lancers in front, 38-37, marking their first lead since a brief 8-7 edge in the first quarter, and converted a steal into a layup for a three-point margin.

Senior forward Sajada Bonner, limited to four points through 24 minutes, sank a pair of foul shots before stamping the outburst with a 3-pointer set up by St. Rose to increase the gap to 45-37 with 5:32 left to play.

Sajada Bonner of St. John Vianney (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Sajada Bonner of St. John Vianney (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Showing the heart of a champion, Manasquan (18-6) scratched and clawed its way back into contention. Masonius accounted for seven points over the balance of the contest, backing a three that whittled the deficit to 53-49 with 23.6 seconds showing with a putback with only 2.4 ticks left on the clock that was accompanied by a foul, sending her to the line with the Warriors on the short side of a 53-51 scoreboard.

With a free throw serving as little aid, Masonius purposely missed the free throw off the iron. A scrum on the floor ensued with the ball rolling out bounds, last touched by Vianney, giving Manasquan a desperate hope of a potential game-winning tip-in off the inbounds with 0.3 seconds on the clock. However, Masonius was whistled for an offensive foul in her desperation bid to tap in a lob as time expired.

St. John Vianney could thank Bellamy for keeping it within striking distance throughout the first three quarters. The 6-0 William & Mary recruit shot a sizzling 6 of 12 from the field that featured a season-high five 3-pointers and team-best 17 points.

Brelynn Bellamy of St. John Vianney (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Brelynn Bellamy of St. John Vianney (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Fittingly, it came at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena a day shy of the one-year anniversary of what she termed the “pivotal moment” of her career.

Her dramatic, buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifted St. John Vianney over St. Rose, 39-37, in last year’s semifinal round, a bucket she credits as the turning point in her development as a more assured shooter.

“At that point, my offensive confidence was low,” Bellamy reflected. “I’d always been defense first. As long as my defense was good, maybe my offense would come around. I think, after committing, I realized my offensive game was going to have to develop. Tonight, I made sure to make my mark on offense and I was glad I could help my team out by hitting those threes.”

Behind, 24-21, at the break, St. John Vianney made subtle defensive adjustments, contesting Masonius and senior guard Lola Mullaney, who scored nine of her 12 points in the first half, more feverishly. While Masonius offset the ploy, netting 22 after intermission, the Lancers saddled her with four fouls and used every instrument at their disposal to try to tire the indefatigable Maryland pledge, who shot 13 of 18 from the floor.

“We needed to do a better job of helping on Faith and Lola,” noted Karpell, who had 10 points, seven of which dropped over the final two quarters. “They were getting too many good shots. We also made adjustments on getting into the paint more.”

The last one was instrumental. While SJV hit 10 threes, it also accumulated eight buckets in and around the lane, striking a necessary balance through more concerted spacing.

But, the biggest takeaway was the continued maturation of St. Rose, blooming at just the right time of year.

“Maddie has stepped up for us all season,” praised Karpell, who has helped groom her backcourt partner by paying it forward in the same kindly manner in which former SJV star Kelly Campbell did for her when she was a freshman. “Tonight was her best game. She took two huge charges and the five-point swing she provided was big lift. But, it’s nothing new.”

“Maddie has a really good understanding of the game,” added St. John Vianney coach Dawn Karpell. “She made some really key defensive plays and took what they were giving her and did it all within the flow to give us what we needed. She’s not the flashy player. She is just a Vianny kid in that she’s blue collar, she’s going to take what’s given to her and she is going to do it in an effortless way. It’s fun for people to watch her play.”

Unless you have to play against her.

Manasquan (18-6)           16           08           13           14 --- 51
St. John Vianney (21-2)   11           10           14           18 --- 53

Manasquan: Lola Mullaney 4-0-4-12; Kate Leturgez 0-0-0-0; Faith Masonius 10-3-4-33; Georgia Heine 1-0-0-2; Annie Mako 0-0-0-0; Brooke Hollawell 0-0-0-0; Maddie Fagan 0-0-0-0; Dorothy Loffredo 2-0-0-4.

St. John Vianney: Rahmena Henderson 0-0-2-2; Sarah Karpell 0-3-1-10; Madison St. Rose 3-1-2-11; Sajada Bonner 3-1-2-11; Katie Hill 1-0-0-2; Brelynn Bellamy 1-5-0-17; Christina Whitehead 0-0-0-0.

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