Haley Unger is like a bad stain in the paint. You can try everything imaginable, but she just can’t be removed.
Unger is territorial and relentless by trade. She has to be for someone who competes under the boards as if the area is her private domain. Anyone in the vicinity of the lane not wearing the navy blue and gold of Marlboro trespasses at their own risk.
But, the one thing Unger likes to emphasize is that Marlboro is no one-trick pony. She welcomes opponents who are inclined to collapse defenders upon her because she knows the little secret that’s generally overlooked when analyzing the Mustangs.
“There’s no such thing as a one-man team,” Unger said. “When the guards are hitting shots and getting out for breakaway layups, those are the things that get us wins.”
As indisputable as Unger’s overall contributions were to the outcome, it was a third-quarter burst in which all five players on the floor had a hand in that broke open a back-and-forth affair and sparked 11th-seeded Marlboro to a 55-46 victory over 22nd-seeded Wall on Tuesday night in the preliminary round of the Shore Conference Tournament in Marlboro.
With the triumph, Marlboro (15-5) advanced to the Round of 16 on Thursday when it travels to meet sixth-seeded Holmdel, ranked 13th in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15.
Unger used her rugged frame in punishing fashion, pulling down 20 rebounds to go with 22 points for the Mustangs, one of the more unheralded crews at the Shore despite their impressive record and marquee low-post attraction.
“This groups of girls is totally underrated and underestimated,” Marlboro first-year coach Kristin Hein said. “You’ve got one of the best centers in the Shore Conference and we have kids who can shoot.”
Which came to light midway through the third. After the lead change hands 11 times, sophomore point guard Nicole Shatsky ensured that the 12th advantage exchange would be the last.
The 5-5 flash took down a defensive board and transported it the length of the floor for a layup as part of a three-point play that gave Marlboro a 31-29 edge. The play triggered a 12-2 outburst over a 2:34 stretch.
Senior Kami Grewal drained a 3-pointer and baseline jumper off a feed from senior guard Shelby Ringer, Unger dropped in a layup and Ringer set up sophomore Kristi Casale for an 18-footer during the tear. By its completion, the surge put Marlboro up, 40-31.
Two foul shots by Shatsky, who had 14 points and five assists, supplied the Mustangs with their largest lead, 48-37, with 4:13 showing in the fourth.
Prior to Marlboro’s third-quarter tear, Wall (12-10) was setting a brisk pace any chance it got. However, it was Marlboro that induced three consecutive turnovers under the rapid tempo and translated each into buckets at the opposite end. Ringer converted the last two into mid-range jumpers in the 6-0 run that put Marlboro ahead, 23-17.
Wall countered with an 8-0 rush, keyed by a three-point play by Amy Maynard and a 3-pointer Ellen Dougherty to take a 27-25 lead into halftime.
Ringer collected 10 points, four rebounds and two assists for Marlboro. Kelsey Thompson scored 11 to top Wall, which also received nine points from Sydney Darby.
SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Jackson 65, Jackson Liberty 34
Fordham-bound senior guard Hannah Missry scored 31 points and cleared a dozen rebounds to pace 16th-seeded Jackson.
Neptune 63, Toms River East 39
Ivy Harrington delivered 15 points and 10 rebounds, Iyonna Crenshaw supplied 14 points and 12 boards and Desiree Moss added a game-high 19 points to pace ninth-seeded Neptune, No. 15 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15.
Manasquan 55, Ranney 14
Junior forward Sam Sullivan had 17 points, including 15 in the first half, to pace eighth-seeded and ninth-ranked Manasquan.
Middletown North 46, Toms River South 30
The 12th-seeded Lions got a well-rounded performance from Emily Lavin. The senior forward dropped in 15 points and rejected 10 shots. Nicole Tollevsen topped Middletown North with 19 points.
Freehold Boro 64, Red Bank 36
Senior point guard Kim Dana counted her 1,000th career point among the 17 she netted for the 13th-seeded Colonials. Camerin Spahn led all scores with 19 for Freehold.
St. Rose 74, Colts Neck 51
Jess Louro and Payton Smith clicked for 19 points apiece as 14th-seeded and defending champion St. Rose had four players score in double figures. Sarah Kurtz finished with 15 and Cat Phipps 14.
Msgr. Donovan 58, Toms River North 44
Dana Carbone poured in 37 points and reached the 1,000-point mark in the process for 10th-seeded Msgr. Donovan.
Matawan 42, Central 32
Montana Bertoli dropped in 13 points as 18th-seeded Matawan sprung the lone upset by eliminating 15th-seeeded Central, despite 17 points from Rachel Iozzia.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner