As news spread of the impending transfer of junior Marina Mabrey from Point Beach to Manasquan, it sparked an added intrigue from the Shore Conference basketball faithful at the start of the 2013-14 season. Fresh off an impressive 30th annual WOBM Christmas Classic title victory over Red Bank Catholic, Manasquan had already established itself as a top team in the Shore Conference just a few weeks into the season. ¶ Sparked by ball movement and high pressure defense, the Warriors showcased a tremendous amount of team chemistry, as if they were already months into their season. After the approved transfer from the NJSIAA of Mabrey in early January, she began attending classes and team practices at Manasquan, as questions began to swirl on the impact of last year’s Asbury Park Press Player of the Year would have on a team that was already playing at a high level.
Those questions would be answered emphatically by the time the Shore Conference Tournament was ready to kick off. Love or hate the transfer back to Manasquan, every person is going to have their own opinion of the situation, but something that can’t be argued is Mabrey’s performance on the court and the results it led to for the Warriors this season.
“There were some nerves on how everything was going to turn out,” Mabrey said.
“I know a lot of people were waiting to see if our team was going to crumble because I was coming here, my coach handled everything really well to make sure there were no nerves, so I really have to credit my coach.”
It was no easy task for second year head coach Lisa Kukoda, working such a high caliber player into a team without losing the chemistry that made them so good early in the season. After a loss at St. John Vianney in Mabrey’s second game with the Warriors, it wasn’t something that just clicked that would lead to the future success of the Warriors, it was something simple that Mabrey said after the loss that was going to help the team.
“Yeah like I said, we just needed time,” Mabrey said.
“We needed time to develop as a team, and to figure out what roles we were all going to play, everyone worked really hard and everybody believed that we would be able to accomplish what we accomplished this season.”
It was the addition of Mabrey that would bring the Warriors from a top 10 team in the Shore Conference to the best team in the Shore, after a 61-41 win over St. Rose in the SCT title game. The numbers from Mabrey in that game, 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists, impressive, but clearly not the only weapon from a team that put up 61 points in the win.
Anyone at the SCT final will tell you the team chemistry was alive and well in that game. The hot shooting of junior Courtney Hagaman carried over, the strong post play of senior Sam Sullivan, and the intense defense and rebounding of seniors Bridget Ford and Eva Hart, everything was still there and this time it led to a SCT title.
“It was a big accomplishment for us, because we never won before,” Mabrey said.
“The SCT is very competitive and it’s a big thing to win, we worked really hard and I think deserved to win it.”
It was more of the same for the Warriors in the NJSIAA Tournament, as the Warriors would advance all the way to the Tournament of Champions final. Mabrey elevated her game in the state tournament, scoring back to back 30 points games against Holmdel and Cedar Creek. Although the Warriors lost to Shabazz in the TOC final, Mabrey once again put up 30 points and pulled down 7 rebounds in the final game of the season.
“Everybody was really into it during states,” Mabrey said.
“We really believed in what we were doing, and that’s what made this team so special.”