Rumson, NJ - The 2015-16 girls basketball season opened with a  bang Friday night with a showdown between two of the Shore Conference's top teams.  For the second straight season the Manasquan Warriors has gotten the better of the Rumson Fair Haven Bulldogs following their 50-44 victory in the season opener.

The Warriors entered the contest as reigning Tournament of Champions, NJSIAA, Shore Conference Tournament and A-Central Champions from a year ago and were projected to be in a rebuilding year, but someone forgot to tell these young ladies they were supposed to take a step back this season.  The Warriors went from a perimeter shooting and finesse team last season to an up tempo, ball movement squad this season.

Rumson would get on the board first taking a 3-0 lead on a three pointer from junior shooting guard Sydney Sabino, but then the Bulldogs would go cold on the score board for the next five minutes.  The Bulldogs were unable to figure out the press from the Warriors and committed six turnovers in the first quarter.  During this time the young Manasquan bunch turned up the pressure on both ends of the ball and jumped out to a 15-5 first period lead.

Dara Mabrey, sophomore guard, turned the page on another chapter in the Mabrey legacy at Manasquan against Rumson and it came in every aspect of her game.  She got the Warriors on the board with back-to-back three pointers that lead to the first quarter lead.  The sophomore looked every bit of a poised veteran against Rumson on both sides of the court.  She ended with 18 points to lead all scorers, but it was more her leadership on and off the ball that proved to be the difference.  With the graduation of her sister last year, Dara knew she had to step into that role and exceeded expectations against at tough Bulldogs squad.

Afterwards a humble Mabrey added "it felt great to get this win and more importantly for the team to know they can count on me but i could not have done it without them."  "Tonight was a great team effort and something we have been working towards, we still have some work to do, but we have a great group that is willing to work."

Mabrey wasn't the only Manasquan player that used her experiences from a year ago to propel themselves as one of Coach Kukoda's leaders this season.  Junior guard Stella Clark picked up where she left off last season with her scoring and defense.  Clark along with Mabrey paced the Warriors on offense and finished with 17 points, 4 steals and 7 of 9 free throws.  Her defensive pressure led to several Bulldogs turnovers who finished with 13  team turnovers.  It will be her defense and clutch free throws that will keep the Warriors on pace this season.

The Bulldogs made a run at Manasquan late in the fourth quarter when Rumson climbed to within three points when sophomore guard Tori Hyduke buried a three pointer with just over two minutes to go.  Hyduke provided constant pressure for Coach Sourlis on both ends of the court and led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points.  But just when Rumson was looking to take over the game at home, the young Warriors put the final touches on the game.

With Manasquan clinging to a 42-39 lead, the Warriors junior guard Carly Geissler intercepted a pass and started out on a fast break and connected with Mabrey who converted on a layup and got fouled on the play as well.  After the free throw put the Warriors up 45-39, the Warriors continued the defense pressure and gave the Bulldogs no easy looks and a couple turnovers later and quick fouls on Clark, who converted her free throws, the Warriors were off to their opening night victory.

Coach Kukoda raved about her teams efforts in stating "a great way to start our season, high energy and contributions from everyone tonight.  There are some things we can fix and learn from, but as a coaching staff we are very happy with tonights effort."

When asked about the unsung heroes from tonights game in freshman Faith and sophomore Addie Masonius, she added "Addie's three pointer from the corner not only lifted us tonight, but is a shot that should boast her confidence for this season that she can hit those big game shots and that as a group we are confident in giving her that shot."  "Faith performed better than expected tonight against a tough Rumson squad and grew more and more comfortable as the game went on."

Mabrey echoed the praise of both Faith and Addie but also noted that Carly Geissler played one heck of a game as well.  Dara commented "Carly showed great defensive pressure tonight and was a force on offense as well."

As noted earlier, Manasquan is supposed to be in a rebuilding year this year, but if Kukoda's group can continue to play they way they did tonight against one of the top teams in the Shore in Rumson, there is no reason we won't be talking about Manasquan playing for more titles again this season.

The Warriors will need to cleanup the turnovers, 15 of them tonight, but like coach Kukoda added afterwards, "with the uptempo style we are running, the turnovers will happen but we need to be able to recover from them as we did tonight…but this does give us something to work on as we go forward.

Next up for Manasquan is the opening round game of the WOBM Christmas Classic against Jackson Memorial at the Poland Springs Arena in Toms River at 6:45pm.  Rumson is next in action at St. John Vianney on Monday at 6:30pm

Game Stats:

Manasquan (1-0)

Dara Mabrey18
Stella Clark17
Addie Masonius7
Faith Masonius6
Maggie Kelly2

Rumson Fair Haven (0-1)

Tori Hyduke17
Megan Volker7
Hannah Scanlan6
Katie Foos6
Nicole Morris4
Sydney Sabino3
Christina Antonakakis1
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