Khaliq Lewis-El knew.
The Trenton Catholic head coach knew any time Katelynn Flaherty and Marina Mabrey are on the court, bad things can happen to any opponent. He knew before he walked into Pine Belt Arena on Tuesday evening to play Point Beach in the first round of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions and he knew for the better part of four quarters once the game began.
The bottom line is this. Whether or not people agree with the way the Garnet Gulls have gone about their business this season with the inclusion of two of the state’s very best talents, opponents must respect this Garnet Gulls team.
Lewis-El knew that going in, while the 1,065 fans inside Pine Belt Arena found out over the course of four quarters.
A 36-point night from Flaherty, 29 more from Mabrey and nine huge points from Eva Motto propelled No. 5 seed Point Beach to a 74-68 win over No. 4 seed Trenton Catholic Academy in a game no one expected the Garnet Gulls (26-1) to be in, let alone be competitive in.
Flaherty, whose 36 points is the second-most ever in a TOC game, went 16-for-17 from the foul line in addition to adding nine rebounds. Mabrey was 18-for-21 from the stripe in addition to 13 rebounds for Point Beach, which will meet No. 1 seed and prohibitive TOC favorite Shabazz (30-1) at 8 p.m. Thursday back at Pine Belt Arena.
“I think that tonight we proved that we can play with anyone,” Flaherty said. “It’s not just us two. Our whole team played good defense, Motto hit two big 3s and I think we kind of shocked them and made them step back a little and it opened it up for us.”
Trenton Catholic (23-7) opened the game in a triangle-and-two in an effort to deal with Mabrey and Flaherty and for a while it worked. Midway through the opening quarter, Motto hit a 3-pointer from the right baseline, then hit another one a short time later from the right wing for a 12-10 Point Beach lead. As Flaherty noted, everything opened up from there.
The better part of the next quarter and a half was played at a bit of a frenetic pace, which Point Beach thrives in on offense. A Flaherty pull-up from 15 feet in transition was followed two trips later by a pull-up trey in transition to give Point Beach a 30-25 lead.
On the final play of the first half, Flaherty was fouled 30 feet from the hoop on a shot attempt. She calmly hit all three foul shots for a 35-32 halftime lead.
Lost in the shuffle in the first half and really throughout was the defense Mabrey played in the back of Point Beach’s 2-3 zone. She finished with four steals and several more altered passes off deflections out of the back of that zone, which the Garnet Gulls used against Bloomfield Tech in Sunday’s Group I final.
A combined defensive effort held high-scoring TCA guard Isis Young to 5-for-27 shooting from the floor before she fouled out late in the fourth quarter. For the game TCA shot 17-for-59.
“I think that a lot of people underestimated us,” Mabrey said. “People thought we would win a sectional title and that’s it. We just won a TOC game and I think at this point, we have nothing to lose. People have to be worried about us and I think that’s an advantage.”
A four-point Garnet Gulls lead after three quarters would extend to as many as 10 after Flaherty leaked out in transition, caught a long pass from Mabrey and finished for a 60-50 lead with just under 4:00 to play in the game.
Flaherty and Mabrey combined to go 14-for-16 from the foul line and 12-for-14 over the final 3:30 after the Garnet Gulls entered the double bonus. The excellent foul shooting helped them overcome getting badly outrebounded for the second game, 56-42 and 28-15 on the offensive glass.
Trenton Catholic Academy is now 3-4 all-time in the TOC, while this was Point Beach’s first appearance.
Point Beach 74, Trenton Catholic 68
Point Pleasant Beach (74): Meyer 0 0-0 0, Motto 3 0-0 9, Flaherty 9 16-17 36, Mabrey 5 18-21 29, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Sartori 0 0-2 0. Totals: 17 34-40 74
Trenton Catholic Academy (68): Young 5 6-8 19, Senatus 3 0-1 7, T. Garner 3 2-3 8, E. Garner 3 0-2 7, Raysor 10 0-1 21, Ingram 2 2-4 6, Jenkins 0 0-0 0, Pickett 0 0-0 0, Labissiere 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 11-26 68
|Point Beach (26-1)||17||18||13||26||–||74|
|Trenton Catholic (23-7)||12||20||12||24||–||68|
3-point goals: (PB) Flaherty 2, Mabrey; (TC) Young 3, E. Garner
Fouled out: (TC) Young, Senatus