Here we go again in what is becoming one of the best nights in the Shore Conference… RFH vs Manasquan. It has been a lopsided battle in recent years. But all the games have been entertaining and nobody can say they have not gotten their monies worth. But tonight’s game will answer a lot of question for both teams.
Rumson has not beat Manasquan in the last 5 meetings. Tonight may be their best chance to end the losing streak. They have been close in the last 2 years but have come up empty. They lost in overtime to Manasquan in the state tournament. Tonight Manasquan will get Dara Mabrey back and Stephanie Lesko is in the lineup. Both teams will be at full strength for the first time against each other in some time.
Manasquan is officially on it’s last leg in terms of health. They have now lost 3 projected starters this year at some point. They have lost a key player in every position. They have lost PG Dara Mabrey, Shooting Guard Gillian Black and Center Victoria Galvan. Lisa Kudoda does not have the depth of RFH and had survived until last Sunday when #4 Gil Bernard gave Manasquan it’s 2nd lost of the season without Mabrey. Kudoda has been flat out masterful in remaking her team as they have not missed a beat despite all the injuries. Now she may get her biggest test of all with RFH being 100% healthy and make no mistake RFH is a different team.
In the season opener RFH could not close quarters and they paid for it big time; it’s been a real issue all season. But in the first game of the season RFH may have been at it’s worst. But in recent weeks RFH has gotten better, but in their game against Saddle River did anyone notice the close of the 3rd quarter? Yup they returned to their old ways and nobody said a word about it, because they won. The question is can RFH hang on to leads and build on them if they get one.
Manasquan defeated RFH in game one but be careful, especially if Dara Mabrey is not herself Why you ask? Because in the 2nd quarter Manasquan went scoreless until the 2 minute mark of the quarter. This happened in December when RFH was not healthy or near the defensive team they are now. To make matters worse Manasquan did not score in the 3rd period until the 4 minute mark. People Manasquan will need to find a way to score this time around. If they have those type dry spells even at home it could come back to hunt them and the defensive team they face tonight….is the best in the Shore right now! Dara Mabrey is a must!
In game one RFH’s rotations and closing of quarters once again got funky as in real funky. First Nicole Morris went to the bench at the end of the first half…MISTAKE! Because if RFH has proved one thing this year, its this… without Nicole Morris on the floor they simply cannot take care of the ball. Last Sunday the amount of turnovers against Saddle Day was shocking at times. Folks we are talking about double figures turnovers by their guards, over 7 and 10 in some cases. If that happens tonight its a wrap. RFH paid the price in game one, Manasquan scored every single point in the 2nd quarter off turnovers…I said every single point. In the 3rd quarter after RFH had taken the lead and was rolling, Morris went to the bench with fouls and Manasquan went on a roll. But even worst is what happened at the end of the quarter. RFH had the ball out of bounds with a chance to close out the quarter with a lead, instead it turned into a 4 point swing in 13 seconds and Manasquan ended the quarter up by TWO…
But Manasquan got some real breaks in game one. Like a ball bouncing off a ref and going out of bounds which clearly would have resulted in a RFH layup and put RFH up 4. But you make your breaks and that is what makes Manasquan special, they are a battle tested crew. But guess what? The team they are facing tonight just might be the most battle tested team they will face all year. Manasquan played RFH in game one of the season. The team they are facing tonight has played the best competition on planet earth. But there is also one area that Manasquan has always enjoyed a major edge on RFH…mental toughness and team chemistry. RFH instead of fighting each other on and off the court is now killing opponents on the court and more importantly showing real mental toughness; going 0-4 to start the season and sticking together. They edge Manasquan had in game one will not be there. In fact some would say RFH may even have the edge this time around.
There were some game changing plays in game one. In the 4th quarter RFH was up with the ball, when then had a turnover at half court, which resulted in a bucket by Masonius off a Mabrey pass and just like that RFH lost it’s MOJO and guess who was on the bench when all that happened? You guessed it Nicole Morris. In game one Katie Foos was rolling in the 2nd quarter and knocking down 3 threes from behind the arc. But in the 2nd half she played exactly 1 minute..opps rotations…rotations. RFH was in die need of a timely shot and forgot offense matters too and could not find one in the 4th. Foos and Sabino had become spectators and RFH paid dearly for it as they could not find a shooter as Manasquan dared them to shoot, when it mattered most. That and the amount of unfinished layups more than anything was the reason RFH lost at home.
Manasquan Addie Masonius had the two biggest plays of the day. Her steal and layup at the end of the 3rd and she hit a big 3 point shot in the 4th to give Manasquan the lead after falling behind for the first time in the game. Dara Mabrey was sensational in the the 4th and Stella Clark finished everything in the lane. But that was a different time, because Manasquan was running down every loose ball and out hustling RFH. Well guess what? That space to run down the loose balls just got smaller, because Stephanie Lesko and Scanlan are both healthy and will be on the court at the same time. Meaning those tip balls and long rebounds at not going to be as plentiful. RFH didn’t finish at the rim in game one…guess what? It will be Lesko trying to finish most of those game one missed layups and Megan Volker is now a season player, not the player playing in her first big game as was the case in game one.
Manasquan won game one but it was a different time. Dara Mabrey was whole and special all evening. Will she be at 100% tonight? RFH Coach Sourlis appears to have his rotations now in order and this could mean real trouble for Manasquan who has taken real advantage of this area in recent match ups. Dara Mabrey changes a lot for Manasquan, because it makes it hard for RFH to use Sabino and Foos at the same time. Faith Masonious will get more touches than in her first high school game and single handily could take over this game and win it by herself. This is the wildcard of wildcards. Stella Clark has never seen Morris, who is one of the best overall guard defenders in the shore, off and on the ball for a entire game. Last year foul trouble and this year RFH rotations issues helped her…I would not count on that tonight if I were her.
So who going to win? Well if Dara Mabrey was on the court 100%, I would say another special night for Manasquan and give them a slight edge. But if Mabrey can’t play all out, I am going with RFH and here is why. First their is only so much a team can overcome, at some point it does become a numbers game. Manasquan is very close to that number. But more importantly RFH has had real talent in recent years. But they have not been a team, they have not always played for each other. Coach Sourlis has taught this group what team basketball can feel like. Sourlis has also learned coaching talent is a hell of a lot harder than coaching less talented players. Sir George’s Sourlis teams ALWAYS GET BETTER LATE…ALWAYS! I believe that he loves this team, I believe they love him…this team wants to win together… and it’s been a long time since they have won a meaningful shore game…tonight that changes and finally another Manasquan/ RFH Classic….goes the Bulldogs way!
DON’T FORGET TONIGHT’S GAME IS A 5.30 PM START AT MANASQUAN!