The uninhibited style that Manasquan employs at both ends of the floor is undoubtedly entertaining and plays to the ensemble’s free-wheeling personalities. But, it also carries with it a perilous fine line in terms of collateral damage.
Passes are routinely deflected, shooters that come off screens can anticipate a flying body impeding their anticipated destination and drives are greeted with gambling challenges that, although designed with an interest in creating turnovers, tend to result in the accumulation of fouls that threaten to break up the Warriors’ offensive rhythm.
Yet, the pattern is never broken. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, foul trouble seems to be one of the things that reigns in Manasquan and elicit its most attentive execution.
Witness Katelyn Flaherty, the perfect Exhibit A. She picked up three fouls in the first half to offset her seven points in the opening quarter. Left to stew in her dilemma at halftime, the sophomore guard made it a point to operate with more composure in order to impact the outcome of Manasquan’s showdown with neighboring rival Point Pleasant Boro on Tuesday night.
“After being in foul trouble, I felt like I let things get to me,” Flaherty admitted. “I wanted to come out and play my game.”
That game entailed more resolute defense, better shot efficiency and the added unselfishness to invite others into the scoring equation. Flaherty was at the core of a game-breaking outburst in the third quarter that sparked Mansquan, No. 1 in The MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings to a sizeable advantage before it settled for a 79-67 victory over Point Pleasant Boro before a standing-room-only crowd in Manasquan.
Manasquan (8-0) owned a 31-21 lead at the break before Point Pleasant Boro (4-3), which dropped its third straight, pared the deficit to 33-28 following a 3-pointer from freshman Lindsey Havens, who responded to her first start with a sterling 21-point performance.
Flaherty countered with a rebound, two steals, an assist and nine of her 21 points during a 13-2 tear which she capped with a 3-pointer to give Manasquan a 46-30 cushion with 1:17 left in the third. That lead ballooned to as much as 69-40 midway through the fourth before Point Pleasant Boro displayed its grit to get as close as 73-63 with 1:10 left to play.
“We just got impatient,” Manasquan coach Felix Romero said of his team’s disjointed close that invited Point Pleasant Boro back into the contest. “We gambled. We got some reach-in fouls. We were riding people, allowed them to stop the clock, get on the line and add some points. Honestly, we didn’t play smart basketball in the end. Hopefully we learn from it and move on.”
One thing Manasquan learned was the degree by which Marina Mabrey sinks her teeth into a defensive assignment. Asked to deny Kelly Hughes her lethal shooting touch (no easy task), the 5-10 freshman, who worked around two early fouls, doggedly locked up on the junior sharpshooter and limited Hughes to one field goal and eight points over the first three quarters.
“Getting her frustrated disrupts their team because she really is the main part,” Marina said of Hughes, who scored 11 points in the fourth to finish with 19. “When she gets going, the whole team gets going.”
Manasquan played stout defensively in the second quarter to induce Point Pleasant Boro into a 0 for 9 spell from the field. The Panthers generated just seven points in the stanza, all of which came from the line.
“This was a test for us,” senior guard Michaela Mabrey, who netted 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. “Everyone knows we can score the ball. It came down to playing defense. We really shut down Kelly. My sister played good, physical defense. I told her not to foul. I know how she plays at times. I kept telling her not to let her emotions get in the way of doing a great job.”
Besides her staunch resistance, Marina Mabrey added 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Flaherty handed out five assists, all in the second half. Jessica Macchi had nine points and 10 boards for Point Pleasant Boro.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner