Tonight we get our 2nd biggest game of the year. It’s another great battle in Class A North. This time it’s MANASQUAN vs MIDDLETOWN SOUTH. Everything from the coaches, players and stakes in this game are different. There is very little these two programs have in common and in fact, they are polar opposite’s…except when it com es to winning.
TWO COACHES WITH TWO DIFFERENT ISSUES…
Tonight two coaches will work the sidleslines trying to give there team a edge. Tom ” The professor ” Brennan is back for MIDDLETOWN SOUTH. Some believe he is the best in the business at preparing his kids for a game. He is the king and a master at throwing other teams and coaches off balance. Tom Brennan seems to always have a wrinkle in his game plan, that most are not prepared for. He has learned and accepted his teams will never have the Depth or talent as some of the other elite teams. He knows developing players is just as important as a new play. Tom Brennan knows if his kids don’t develop he has no chance against the big dogs. Tonight he is facing the biggest, loudest dog, he will see all year. He will need to come up with something very special tonight.
The other coach tonight will not have such problems as Coach Brennan’s The players in her program are ready made. Tonight Lisa Kukoda has to do one thing…get to the gym on time. Because her team is loaded. She has 2/3 Power 5 players. Her backcourt are all D1 players. She has one of the leading candidates for the Shore and State player of the year. Some would say Lisa Kukoda’s has another job “just don’t mess it up” Now wouldn’t life be easy if that were the case. Lisa Kukoda is off perhaps to the greatest start in high school coaching history. She has made all the right moves every step of the way. All eyes have been on every move. Especially when she goes to the bench to sub. She has a large amount of talent but a small margin of error when it comes to subbing. With talent comes bruised egos and angry parents. One wrong decision and win or lose…The pressure will kick up two fold. Lisa tonight will need to keep making great decisions…Happy wife and happy life. She’ll have 12 wives and a few husbands too watching tonight.
THE PLAYER CONTRAST…
MANASQUAN has so many stars, you can light up a room. MIDDLETOWN has many stars in the waiting. Dara Mabrey is a mega star. She is show time at its best. She has been masterful all season. She plays with fire and emotion . Middltown’s Isla Brennan may be a star one day. She showed flashes last year. She is quiet and has a low-key approach. Much is expected of her this year. Tonight will be her first big test against real next level talent, she will have her hands full.
Stella Clark is one of the best players in the state. She plays with all out reckless abandonment. She seems to always GETS knocked to the floor, but yet gets up every time. Hayley Dolonzo was suppose to be one of the best players in the state. She was the mini Stephaine Karcz. She too played with reckless abandonment. But she didn’t get up one day. She is now back from ACL surgery. She will want to remind everyone she is still a star. Tonight would be a great place to start.
Faith Masonious is the most talented and versatile players in the conference. She can play every postion and defend every position. But she has not been the all dominating force we saw at time last year, injuries have slowed her down. Middletown Freshman Kayla Richardson has been as good as advertised and more. She one day, hopes to own the title Faith Masonious currently holds. She is the most versatile freshman in the Shore and maybe the state.Tonight may be her coming out party.
Lola Mullaney is a player coaches can only dream about getting her signature one day. She is already a star. Last year she was special and not much has changed, as she proved in the RBC game. Alex Balsamo, wants everyone to know she is a star too. She wishes college coaches would ask for her signature . She has proved early in the season, she has what it takes. Tonight she will try to show the world on the biggest stage, what they have been missing.
Addie Masonious is the forgotten player at Manasquan. It’s been that way since the day she started winning championships wherever she played. Tonight again she will try and steal the spotlight, like she always seems to do in the biggest games. MIDDLETOWN has a forgotten player too. There 5th starter, who nobody seems to know. We won’t find that name out, until the tip.
Carly Geissler, Nikki Stevens and Victoria Galvan have all been in wars, the biggest of wars. They have not just been in wars, but they have been on the front line. Making big shots, big plays and yes, even carrying the team on there backs at times. They are not ordinary role players. They are unique role plays, that have proven they are ready for prime time over and over. Sam Keenan, Eve Pivie, Stephaine Mayerhofer, Madison Szabo, Grace McDonnell and Haley Nicholas have never been a major part, of a game of this magnitude. This will be the first time, they will play prime roles. This is their first time on the front line. Tonight they will be asked to deliver the goods, when given the chance. It will be all very NEW to them
Yes two Top 10 teams will hit the floor tonight. The media will be out in full. The crowd will have that nervous buzz. But the expectations and what is at stake are totally different for both teams. Last year under the worst conditions possible. MANASQUAN Jumped out to a 20-4 lead and South chased them all night before losing.67-56. MIDDLETOWN would do anything to have those first 8 minutes back. Stephaine Karcz had lost her aunt the night before and Donlozo was out with her torn ACL. It was a night everyone at MIDDLETOWN SOUTH would rather soon forget. This year things are different. No Stephaine Karcz, but a healthy Dolonzo is back. Alex Balsamo looks like a superstar in the making and Isla Brennan has a year under her belt and they have a future mega star in Freshman Kayla Richardson. But the fact of the matter is, MIDDLETOWN on this night, is playing with house money on the road. Win and it’s the biggest upset in school history. Lose and nobody thinks any worse. But there is a elephant in the room. If this game is a total blowout then MIDDLETOWN will hear the words OVERRATED.
Manasquan has much to lose tonight. First they are rated #1 in the Tri-State area by Gregg Lerner and #1 in the Shore. Lose tonight and all goes to the waist side. Lose tonight and the battle of super powers on Sunday is not so super. Lose tonight and bye bye National title. But most importantly, if Manasquan where to lose..they would also lose the air of invincibility. You know the old saying…Lose your confidence and you lose your talent. Manasquan needs to win in the worst way tonight, for reasons that go way beyond one game.
I have long said gym rats are tough to beat when the pressure is on. Manasquan has a team flowing with gym rats. They play against the best competition all year. There are warriors. MIDDLETOWN is the complete opposite, they have hard workers and dedicated kids. But they are not use to seeing this level of speed and athleticism on a regular basis, either in or out or season. This will be a shock to there system…you cannot simulate the type of competive nature that is needed in these type games in practice. You must experience this and MIDDLETOWN SOUTH has only two players who has seen they level of talent, day in and day out… that’s not enough to derail MANASQUAN….77-58