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Mabrey marvelous in win over Rumson

January 5, 2012

Squan senior drops 35 points on Rumson-Fair Haven to send Warriors to the WOBM final

TOMS RIVER — With nothing going right for Manasquan last Thursday night and with a trip to the WOBM Christmas Classic final on the line, Manasquan senior Michaela Mabrey knew it was time — time to take over.

courtesy of Steve Wexler, The Coast Star

Down 27-21 at the break versus Rumson-Fair Haven, the Notre Dame-bound guard took the Warriors on her back, scoring 17 of her game-high 35 points in the second half to push Manasquan to a 59-50 victory.

Mabrey’s stellar performance came on a night in which the Warriors faced foul trouble, questionable calls from the officials and a young, tough Bulldogs team looking to play spoiler.

Mabrey was satisfied to move on to the final, but felt Manasquan was fortunate to advance after digging itself into a hole early.

“We have a lot to work on,” she said following the game. “That is a game we have to come out harder. Calls did not go our way tonight but you can’t let that get the best of you. I had to take over this game.”

Manasquan head coach Felix Romero was proud of his team for its perseverance in the face adversity during the first tight contest the Warriors have met with in 2011-2012.

“It was great to see that we can be down and hang in there, especially in a game that was as frustrating as that one,” said Romero. “It was tough.”

Despite seeing it time and time again, the coach was impressed with the play of his senior standout.

“She was huge,” said Romero, of Mabrey. “Two years ago we played Rumson and we were in a similar game and lost in double overtime. Michaela had a huge game. She played confident and was poised.”

The beginning of the game seemed as if it would be a typical Warrior victory, as the group jumped out to a fast, 7-1 lead. Quickly, though, the tides shifted out of Manasquan’s favor.

The team lost two-thirds of its front court in a matter of minutes, as Michaela Mabrey’s sister, freshman Marina Mabrey, and sophomore Samantha Sullivan each fell into foul trouble.

Rumson-Fair Haven jumped on the Warriors’ misfortune, using the opportunity to make a 17-3 run to close the first quarter and take a 18-10 lead.

The Bulldogs maintained an advantage, taking a six-point lead into halftime.

As the second half opened up, Manasquan did not move away from its game plan and continued to play at a high tempo. Midway through the third quarter, Michaela Mabrey saw the run-and-gun style of the Warriors taking its toll on Rumson.

“I knew they were tired,” she said. “The pace of our game just wears teams down.”

With the Bulldogs gasping, the Warriors set the stride, cutting the lead to 34-31 with just under 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

“We knew that eventually, if we hung in there, we could creep back into the game little by little,” said Romero. “We hung in there, were patient and let things work themselves out for us.”

Romero credited the efforts of Melissa Pavia, Gretchen Fay and Eva Hart, feeling their high intensity and scrappy play helped wear down the Bulldogs.

“They were awesome — they came off the bench and gave us a spark,” said Romero.

Manasquan would take all the momentum and the lead for good on perhaps the most memorable play of the entire tournament.

With the Warriors down, 34-31, Michaela Mabrey came down the floor, pulled up from long range and buried a 3-point basket from the left elbow. The senior was also fouled on the play, converting the free throw to give Manasquan a 35-34 lead, its first lead since the first quarter.

“I think that was the climax for us,” said Michaela Mabrey, referring to the four-point play. “That turned things around and really got us in the mode that we can win the game.”

The momentum-shifting bucket ignited a charge in the Warriors, specifically sophomore Katelynn Flaherty, who struggled in the first half.

The lightning-fast point guard scored the last seven points of the third quarter for Manasquan, as the team took a 42-39 lead into the final quarter.

Flaherty, who finished with 16 points, was happy to get it going after a slow start.

“It was frustrating [in the first half],” said Flaherty. “When I started going to the basket and scoring, it made me realize I should just keep going to the basket instead of shooting [from the outside].”

Manasquan was able to extend its lead to as much as eight points in the fourth quarter and, even though the Bulldogs kept fighting, the Warriors never lost their lead.

Manasquan would convert on five of six free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.

The victory put the Warriors in the spot to win the program’s first WOBM Christmas Classic.

“We are really excited,” said Michaela Mabrey, of playing in the final prior to the matchup with Jackson Memorial. “We need to go home and ice up — we are tired.”

For live game updates on Manasquan girls basketball, follow me on twitter @ https://twitter.com/#!/SamCostantino

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