WEST LONG BRANCH – Even before Manasquan’s 2019 class came together on Broad Street, the chatter had already begun about the group’s potential and how much they could accomplish at the high school level.

Four years later, with the accolades and trophies already piled high, the Warriors cemented their legacy as one of the very best to classes to come through the Shore Conference.

On a picturesque day at Monmouth University’s Kessler Stadium, top-seeded Manasquan pulled away from Christian Brothers Academy for a 12-7 win that secured the program’s third consecutive Shore Conference Tournament title. Senior attackman Canyon Birch banked five goals and one assist, senior midfielder James Pendergist delivered three goals and two assists and senior goalie Mike LaPoint made eight saves, helping the Warriors secure their place in history.

Manasquan is now the third program to win three SCT titles, joining CBA (4) and Rumson-Fair Haven (6), and also joins Rumson as the only programs to win three straight SCT championships.

“I remember freshman year we had the expectation list and every year it was Shore Conference, then states, then T.O.C.,” Pendergist said. “This 2019 group is the most successful group that has gone through Manasquan High School so to be able to come out here and do it for the third time is pretty special.”

“This was a long time coming,” said senior defenseman Jack Fabean. “Kids like me, Canyon, Michael (LaPoint), James, Ryan Anderson, Casey Campbell and other kids I’m forgetting, we’ve been on the same Shark River team since fifth grade. We knew what we were capable of since we were beating teams like Summit and Mountain Lakes back then. We knew we could do some stuff when we to high school.”

“It’s awesome to have a three-peat, not many programs are able to do that,” Birch said. “For our class to be here four times; definitely the experience helped us come out with a win today.”

Heading into Saturday’s SCT final, Manasquan had blown out all but one of its opponents – an 11-7 win over perennial state powerhouse Bridgewater-Raritan. The Warriors played CBA in the regular season and came away with a 15-4 victory, and it was hard to foresee anything but a similar outcome in the conference title game.

The Colts are a young team, but they are talented and well-coached under Dave Santos, and they did not simply yield to the juggernaut Warriors not matter what others expected to happen. Manasquan jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals the Pendergist brothers, James and freshman midfielder Robert, but CBA answered when sophomore midfielder Kyle Aldridge beat LaPoint with a perfect shot just under the crossbar. The teams traded goals for the rest of the quarter and Manasquan held a 4-3 lead after the first 12 minutes.

Aldridge scored his third of the game 58 seconds into the second quarter to tie the game at four, momentarily dispelling any notion of a blowout win by Manasquan. CBA had come to play, and Manasquan had to find a way to keep the Colts from pulling ahead.

“I think once they started scoring, we realized we need to get this done,” LaPoint said. “We put the brakes on just got after it. It was us being a veteran team calming down and taking every play step-by-step and working together.”

Manasquan’s response was swift and forceful. Birch scored an unassisted goal at 9:32 and then scored off a pass from Pendergist for a 6-4 lead. Sophomore attackman Casey Mulligan then scored off a setup from Pendergist at the 4:42 mark before scoring again off a feed from Birch to give Manasquan an 8-4 halftime lead.

Birch had three goals and two assists at halftime while Pendergist, who missed Thursday’s semifinals win over Rumson-Fair Haven with a knee injury, had two goals and two assists. Manasquan had several players raise their level of play in the semifinals when Pendergist was out, notably his brother, Robert, who had a pair of goals, but getting back their outstanding two-way middie was a major boost for Manasquan.

“He’s that old-fashioned, dual-threat middie who can do it all on both ends of the field,” Birch said. “Just to have his senior leadership back and to have another scoring threat on the field was a big boost for us. It gave everyone more confidence. Just his presence, you know teams have to respect him.”

“There was no way I wasn’t playing today,” Pendergist said. “I told our trainer and Dr. Petrosini I have to play in this one. We needed the three-peat.”

It was much of the same in the third quarter with senior midfielder Riley Callahan scoring at 10:09 to extend the lead to 9-4. Birch scored his fourth goal of the game at 8:07, then deposited his fifth goal when a pass intended for Pendergist found its way into the back of the net. After Aldridge’s goal at 11:02 of the second quarter, Manasquan scored seven straight goals while allowing just four CBA shots across a span of 23:30, turning a 4-4 game into an 11-4 lead that would not be surmounted.

“It all started with our defense,” Birch said. “They played really well in that second quarter and allowed us to get more possessions on offense. Once we got more looks at their defense we were able to dissect more and more throughout the game.”

“We really honed in on coming in the backside and taking away the crease where they got most of their goals,” said senior LSM Mike Page. “It kind of just got us fired us up and we said, ‘alright, let’s go’. When we hit adversity we get going and start to build momentum.”

“The intensity went up and that was a huge part for us,” Fabean said. “Canyon hit some shots that were really momentum shots. Certain shots he takes, you’re like, ‘wow’, and it kind of changes the face of the game.”

CBA’s Connor Macrae scored an extra-man opportunity goal eight seconds into the fourth quarter, but Pendergist scored a behind-the-back goal off a pass from Ryan Anderson less than a minute later to give Manasquan a 12-5 lead.  CBA scored quickly after when Mason Rudolph set up Dan Martin for quick, turnaround shot to make it 12-6 and Terrance Lacewell scored with 4:35 left to cut Manasquan’s lead five goals, but that was as close as CBA would get.

“We knew we had a tough opponent coming in,” said CBA head coach Sean Cunningham. “They are talented, very well-coached and it’s always hard to beat a good team twice. At 4-4, you understand it’s going to be a grind, you have to show up and work and make plays, and fortunately, we were able to go on a pretty good run there. This senior class was able to lead us to victory.”


Box Score 

Manasquan 12, CBA 7

CBA (11-6)31037
Manasquan (17-0)443112

Kyle Aldridge 3, Dan Martin 2, Connor Macrae, Terrance Lacewell; M: Canyon Birch 5, James Pendergist 3, Casey Mulligan 2, Riley Callahan, Robert Pendergist.

ASSISTS – C: Patrick Gotterup, Dan Martin, Mason Rudolph; M: James Pendergist 2, Canyon Birch 2, Ryan Anderson 3.

SAVES – C: Noah D’Andrea, 8; M: Mike LaPoint, 8.

SHOTS: Manasquan, 32-20.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


More From Shore Sports Network