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Mabrey leaves a lasting legacy at Manasquan

June 21, 2012

MANASQUAN — To say Manasquan senior Michaela Mabrey received numerous accolades for her individual efforts during the 2011-2012 winter season would be an understatement.

From local awards like the Kerwin Award, which is given annually to the top male and female basketball players in the Shore Conference, to national recognition — spots in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association and McDonald’s All-American games and her selection to the U.S.A. Women’s U-18 National Team — Mabrey’s talents did not go unnoticed at any level of the girls high school basketball world.

Though it would have been very easy for her to overlook her senior season and focus on the next chapter of her life and basketball career — she will play Division I basketball next year for the University of Notre Dame — Mabrey never took her eye off the prize of leading the Warriors to a state championship.

It was Mabrey’s desire and determination, as well as direction of her underclass teammates during a memorable yet turbulent run to a New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association [NJSIAA] Tournament of Champions [TOC] title, that makes her The Coast Star Co-Female Athlete of the Year.

In the midst of an undefeated season and already carrying a WOBM Christmas Classic Tournament title to its name, the Manasquan girls basketball team suffered an unexpected blow at the end of January, when volunteer assistant coach Tom Flaherty was removed from his position by the Manasquan High School administration.

The dismissal of Flaherty — the father of sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty — seemed to affect the entire team, and was especially difficult for Mabrey, who called Flaherty “the heart and soul” of the Warriors.

“Without him it has been really hard on all of us,” Mabrey said of Tom Flaherty after Manasquan beat Archbishop Molloy during the New York-New Jersey Challenge on Jan. 29.

Despite the removal of Tom Flaherty from the program, the Warriors, guided by Head Coach Felix Romero and Mabrey’s leadership, were able to keep winning, making a run to the Shore Conference Tournament [SCT] title game against rival St. Rose on Feb. 24.

It was in this game against the Purple Roses, however, that Manasquan faced its second major roadblock of the season.

In front of a packed-house at Monmouth University, the Warriors would lose 65-56 to St. Rose in the SCT final that day, but it was the way the team lost that put Manasquan in a bad light around the Shore Conference. From visible frustration with the officiating to quarreling amongst teammates, the Warriors had let their frustrations get the best of them during the game, costing the squad a chance at the SCT crown.

Mabrey was the first to admit that the Warriors did not put their best foot forward in the loss to St. Rose.

“I think it really hurt us,” she said of the team’s frustrations.

It was at Manasquan’s first practice back following the loss to the Purple Roses, though, that the team hit a crossroad, which ultimately led back to the correct path for the team.

From the opening shoot-around at that same practice session at Manasquan High School, Mabrey geared her focus towards keeping the Warriors up-beat.

“We were definitely disappointed but I think we are looking at it as more of a positive now,” she said. “We haven’t really lost the whole season. To lose and be able to look at our mistakes and see how you can change them [helps moving forward].”

Manasquan, with division and state titles still attainable and in front of them, would heed its leader’s message and not lose another game the rest of the season.

After coasting to a C Central Division title and an NJSIAA Central Group III championship, the Warriors were able to redeem their loss to St. Rose by beating the Purple Roses 56-50 in the TOC semifinal — setting the blue and gray up in the TOC championship game.

After the Warriors beat Gill St. Bernard’s, 67-55, in TOF final at the Izod Center on Mar. 20, Mabrey, who scored 26-points in the game, spoke of the long, grueling 34-game road that was the 2011-2012 season.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said Mabrey of winning the state title. “I still remember the first day I was on my way to practice — the first day of the season. Now it is the end and I don’t even know what to say. I knew it was the beginning of something that was going to be great. Along the way we had bumps. But, it just made us stronger as a team.”

Having scored over 2,000 career points, Mabrey was able to permanently stamp her legacy as one of the top female basketball players in New Jersey state history.

This year, though, when looking back on the 2011-2012 season, one must remember that even more impressive than her ability to put the ball in the net, was Mabrey’s ability to stay focused in the face of adversity and lead her team to victory.

follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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