Manasquan ousts Cedar Creek in TOC
As much as Manasquan’s full-court press is designed to unnerve with the chaos it creates through the size and speed within it, Marina Mabrey finds the frenzied style to be quite settling.
“It makes me read plays and get to spots quicker,” said Manasquan’s freshman. “I can make some steals and go right to the basket and that gets me going.”
Mabrey wasted no time finding a her level of comfortable speed. The 5-11 swing reaped five steals in the first four minutes, two of which she converted herself in transition, and poured in 15 of her 25 points in the opening quarter to ignite third-seeded Manasquan, No. 3 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, to a 69-45 victory over sixth-seeded Cedar Creek on Tuesday night in the first round of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions in front of 785 at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
Manasquan (30-2) advanced to the semifinals on Thursday where it will meet an all-too-familiar foe in second-seeded and second-ranked St. Rose. This will mark the third meeting between the neighboring schools; Manasquan scored a 43-39 decision on Feb. 11 and St. Rose returned the favor with a 65-56 triumph on Feb. 24 in the Shore Conference Tournament final.
Behind the relentless pressure it applied on Cedar Creek, Manasquan set a frenetic pace much to it liking. After sticking a 3-pointer, Mabrey made an immediate steal and converted it into a layup for a 5-2 lead and the Warriors never looked back. By the end of the first quarter, Mabrey was 6-for-8 from the field, mostly on high-percentage shots inside, and had out two assists in helping Manasquan storm to a 23-12 lead.
“Our press is very intimidating,” said Mabrey, who along with her 5-10 sister Michaela and 6-1 junior Amanda Hagaman, towered over Cedar Creek’s guards while springing traps in the backcourt. “We get those steals and pass out of them so quickly.”
Complementing Mabrey was Katelynn Flaherty. The 5-7 sophomore guard repeatedly carved out paths to the basket and made herself available off the ball, either along the arc or on the baseline in pumping in a team-high 26 points on 11 of 20 shooting.
“We wanted to pressure them and make them have turnovers,” said Flaherty, whose nifty reverse layup off a dish from Mabrey was part of an 8-0 run that gave Manasquan a 15-6 advantage, a margin that was aided by eight points scored directly off steals. “We could get some fast breaks and get our momentum up.”
A layup from Mabrey off a Flaherty feed ended the first quarter but touched off a 13-0 tear that extended the lead to 34-12 midway through the second. Mabrey accounted for six points and Flaherty added five as well as two assists as Manasquan racked up 24 points off the 18 turnovers it generated in the first half.
The only point of concern for the Warriors was the 28 points dropped in by Cedar Creek junior Kristine Miller, a long and agile 6-1 center who was 10 of 16 from the floor. Manasquan will face another strong post on Thursday in 6-2 Sam Clark of St. Rose, who had 28 points and 10 boards in their SCT championship game encounter
“We have to do a better job of getting the big people out and boxing them out,” said Flaherty. “Now, we have to stop Sam Clark or we’re not going to win.”
“We really didn’t do a good job on her,” added Mabrey. “The key is rebounding, getting the ball out and shutting down Sam Clark.”
Cedar Creek produced 14 second-chance points.
While Manasquan shot 5 of 16 from behind the arc, it influenced Cedar Creek (26-5) into a hasty pace that it didn’t desire which resulted in some rushed shots and a 1-for-19 showing from behind the arc. Cedar Creek did own a 40-39 edge on the boards with Miller grabbing a dozen.
Although she had just five points, senior All-American Michaela Mabrey handed out six assists and two steals. Hagaman chipped in with six points and six rebounds.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner