Defense has been a staple for Manasquan all season, and on Sunday at Pine Belt Arena, it carried the Warriors to the NJSIAA Group II title.
Next up is a trip to the Tournament of Champions after defeating Newton 49-38.
The group title will be added to the Warriors’ long list of accomplishments this season, which includes both the WOBM and Shore Conference Tournament titles.
It wasn’t easy and at times it wasn’t pretty, but Manasquan head coach Lisa Kukoda once again was able to guide her team to victory. Much to the dismay of Kukoda, foul trouble continues to be a theme that plagues the Warriors, who are still playing their aggressive style of defense that has carried them this far into the season.
On Sunday it was no different, as Marina Mabrey and Sam Sullivan each went into halftime with three personal fouls.
“We came out aggressive defensively and it worked to our advantage, at times we were a little overaggressive and got into foul trouble,” Kukoda said. “I thought we did a good job of making adjustments at the half, keeping up our intensity, but not picking up cheap fouls.”
The Warriors went into a zone defense to start the second half and were just as effective defensively forcing several Newton turnovers in the third quarter.
“We went zone to avoid picking up extra fouls. We have to make sure that we are adjusting to the way the game is being called,” Kukoda said. “In the second half, we did a much better job of toning it down just a little bit, enough so that we were able to still do what we do well.”
It wasn’t the best showing offensively from the Warriors, but they picked things up in the fourth quarter. The Warriors went up 15 with 2:47 seconds left in the game after Sullivan was able to find a cutting Mabrey, and Courtney Hagaman also found Sullivan for an easy layup.
“I think we were able to move the ball better in the fourth,” Mabrey said. “Everyone started going to the basket more, and we got into more of a rhythm as a team.”
It’s something that Kukoda will hope to see more of when the Warriors play their first game in the Tournament of Champions.
“I told them we are at our best when the ball is moving,” Kukoda said. “When we drive and we dish it out we are much better as a team.”
Although the Warriors still have more basketball to play this season, Kukoda was able to take in winning the Group II title.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Kukoda said. “It’s a credit to the team and the way they have played all season, we have faced a lot of good teams along the way and to be one of the six teams left in the state is definitely something to be proud of.”
Mabrey finished with a game-high 20 points along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Sullivan also scored 13 points and pulled down five rebounds, and Hagaman finished with 12 points and two assists.
The first round of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions will be on Wednesday at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. Manasquan will have a bye in the first round after getting the second seed. They will play the winner of third-seeded Immaculate Heart Academy and sixth-seeded Woodrow Wilson. St. Rose was given the fifth seed and will play fourth-seeded Paterson Eastside at 7:30 p.m Wednesday.
Manasquan 49, Newton 38
Manasquan (49): Mabrey 6 7-10 20, Sullivan 5 1-3 13, Ford 0 1-2 1, Hagaman 5 2-3 12, Hart 0 0-0 0, Clark 1 1-1 3, Masonius 0 0-0 0 , Bryant 0 0-0 0, Palombi 0 0-0 0, Black 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-14 48
Newton (38): Buckley 2 5-5 10, Delnero 2 4-4 8, Euston 2 4-58, Hillard 0 0-0 0, Lynch 4 1-1 9, Keimel 0 0-0 0, Nitting 0 0-0 0, Chambliss 0 3-4 3, Schomp 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 17-20 38
3-point goals: (M) Mabrey; (N) Buckley; Records: Manasquan (26-5), Newton (24-5)