Marina Mabrey is always up for a meaty defensive assignment. However, the 5-11 Manasquan freshman could have imagined more ideal circumstances to answer a late-game request than the predicament she faced on Sunday.
Mabrey seemed like a logical choice to lock up on Archbishop Molloy’s elusive Kamille Ejerta. Her physical style, athleticism and size advantage fit the requirements to cool off the 5-5 flash, whose slick offensive repertoire was doing an admirable job of keeping the undermanned Stanners within striking distance.
However, the burden of addressing the need was made all the more perilous by the fact Mabrey was going to have to carry it out while saddled with three fouls.
“It was a tough call,” Manasqaun coach Felix Romero said. “We were relying on her to play it smart, take a step off and bother her with her length and her speed. She did a pretty good job.”
That may have been the understatement of the day.
Mabrey not only neutralized Ejerta for the final eight minutes, she managed to reserve enough juice to provide some timely offensive support that enabled Manasquan, No. 2 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, to pull away from Archbishop Molloy of Queens for a 66-52 victory at the Coaches Choice USA New York-New Jersey Challenge in Holmdel.
Mabrey deposited 11 of her team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as Manasquan broke open a tight contest that entered the final period deadlocked at 40-40. Her foul-line jumper off a dish from her senior sister Michaela snapped the tie and sophomore Katelyn Flaherty backed it with a layup to give Manasquan a 44-40 lead.
At the same time, Ejerta, who accumulated 22 of her game-high 26 points over the first three quarters, was limited to a pair of buckets over the closing eight minutes.
“Since she is kind of small, I could step back a little so when she goes out for the shot, I could go and contest it,” Marina said. “I knew that was my job for the fourth quarter and they really need me to do that.”
The move to put her on Ejerta was necessitated by the work rate Archbishop Molly (11-6) employed to stay close. It fought to extend possessions on the offensive glass, did a nice job of containing Manasquan’s explosive scoring potential within its zone defense and rallied from a 28-16 deficit to assume a brief 35-33 lead when Ejerta nailed a 3-pointer to open the third quarter.
“I was like ‘Guys, lets go’ and right there, I started attacking more,” said Michaela Mabrey, the 5-10 senior guard, who balanced her four 3-pointers in the first half with a more aggressive track to the basket out of halftime to finish with 21 points. “There was a soft spot right in the middle of their defense.”
Two free throws from Nyasha Irizarry with 5:31 to play got Archbishop Molloy within 48-45 but Michaela Mabrey converted 5 of 6 free throws over the next 1:32 to give Manasquan a 51-45 advantage. A runner from Flaherty, who netted 16 points, coupled with a layup by each of the Mabreys handed the Warriors their largest lead of the game, 64-51 in the final minute.
Red Bank Catholic 52, Staten Island Tech 25: Caroline Corcoran and Morgan Arnott each connected for a pair of 3-pointers and combined for 23 points to pace No. 5 Red Bank Catholic (14-3), which outscored Staten Island Tech by a 46-21 margin over the last three quarters.
Moore Catholic 41, Rumson 37: Trailing, 32-12, with 5:02 showing in the third quarter, Moore Catholic (14-2) of Staten Island embarked on a 29-5 tear over the balance of the contest to pull out the decision. Jamie O’Hare, a 5-6 senior guard, delivered 12 of her 15 points in the closing surge, stamped by a 3-pointer with 1:59 to play that put Moore Catholic ahead, 37-36, its first lead since the game’s opening bucket. Jess Harvey topped Rumson (12-6), which managed just one field goal of the final 13 minutes, with 12 points.
Ossining 85, Holmdel 69: Scintillating junior guard Saniya Chong poured in 35 points and became the all-time leading scorer for Ossining (15-0). Chong fashioned a triple-double with 11 assists and 10 steals while teammate Destini Walker, an impressive 5-10 freshman forward, also accomplished the feat with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals. Tara Inman scored 29 for Holmdel (10-6).
St. Rose 55, Bishop Loughlin 43: Senior forward Sam Clark posed a force inside for No. 3 St. Rose (17-0) by clicking for 17 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. Senior guard Diana Malanga had a dozen points, going 12 for 12 from the line, including the final eight points of the game over the last 3:53. Sophomore Sarah Kurtz came off the bench to deliver nine points.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @GreggLerner