Marina Mabrey exploded Wednesday night.
The sophomore forward erupted for a career-high 49 points, propelling the Point Pleasant Beach High School girls basketball team past Gloucester City, 85-74, in the NJSIAA Group I state semifinals.
The Garnet Gulls (24-1) will meet Bloomfield Tech, a 54-41 winner over Midland Park, in the Group I state championship game Sunday at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River at a time to be determined Friday by NJSIAA officials. The winners qualified for a state championship game for the first time in program history.
Mabrey blazed away at a 16-for-22 clip from the field, including three of five from downtown. She put home 14 of 16 free throws. She added six rebounds and six steals. Mabrey scored 32 second-half points, including 19 in the third quarter.
Mabrey turned the Williamstown gymnasium into her personal playground, burying treys from binoculars range, beating defenders off the dribble, scoring on putbacks and netting medium range jumpers. She spiced her showing with a behind-the-back dribble move that resulted in a three-point play late in the third quarter.
Mabrey went to the bench with her third personal foul with 1:07 left in the second quarter and the game tied at 30. The Lady Lions (25-4) outscored the Garnet Gulls, 6-3, over the final 1:07 for a 36-33 lead. Mabrey returned to the starting lineup in the third quarter and took out her anger on Gloucester City.
“I was kind of upset,” she said. “I did not want us to lose this game on my stupid fouls. I wanted to take the team to the championship game. I guess my shots started going in.”
Gloucester City took a 42-35 lead on a jumper by Taylor Blackiston with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“We called a timeout and said, ‘We have been down by 22 in the past. We can come back and win this game,’ ” said Mabrey, whose team surrendered nine of the game’s first 10 points. “Everyone got their head on.”
The Garnet Gulls closed the quarter with a 25-9 avalanche, taking a 60-51 lead with four seconds to play on a layup by junior guard Katelynn Flaherty, who netted 24 points and added four assists and eight rebounds. Mabrey keyed the spree with 17 points. Senior guard Eva Motto put the winners ahead to stay, 44-42, on a jumper with 5:17 left.
Point Pleasant Beach’s lead mushroomed to as many as 16, 71-55, with 5:29 left in the game on a trey by senior guard Nicole Meyer. Gloucester City pulled to within 11, 76-65, on a putback by Madison McClintock, who scored 31. Flaherty converted a double bonus, pushing the lead to 13, 78-65, with 2:55 left.
A Kylee Hirst trey cut the deficit to 10, 78-68, with 2:18 to go. Mabrey replied with a layupand Motto, faced with a two-shot foul, netted both attempts, extending the lead to 14, 82-68, with 1:22 to play.
“Getting to the championship game is a tremendous feeling,” winning coach Mike Feerst said. “We have two great players in Mabrey and Flaherty, but I am so proud of every single one of our girls. This is great for Point Pleasant Beach.”