NJ girls basketball: Shore Conference Tournament preview, prediction

Daniel LoGiudice
Asbury Park Press

Published 3:00 PM EST Feb 28, 2020

WHAT: Shore Conference Tournament final

WHEN/WHERE: Saturday, Feb. 29 at 5 p.m. at OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University

WHO: No. 1 St. John Vianney (24-1) vs. No. 2 Manchester Township (23-3)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: St. John Vianney defeated No. 17 Toms River East 72-33 in the second round, topped No. 8 Marlboro 67-25 in the quarterfinals and came back to defeat No. 4 St. Rose 70-63 in the semifinals.

Manchester Township beat No. 18 Middletown South 61-38 in the second round, edged No. 7 Red Bank Regional 64-61 in the quarterfinals and ran past No. 3 Red Bank Catholic 64-43 in the semis.

SCT HISTORY: St. John Vianney has won a conference-best 13 SCT titles and has made it to more finals, 22, than any other team. The Lancers have played in four straight finals, winning the game last in 2016.

Manchester Township won its first ever SCT title last year. It was the Hawks’ first ever final appearance.

ST. JOHN VIANNEY REPORT: The Lancers will have plenty of motivation entering Saturday. Not only did Manchester defeat them in the final last year, a 58-42 loss, the Lancers have dropped three consecutive finals.

Sophomore Madison St. Rose leads this young St. John Vianney unit and is coming off the best performance of her career. In the biggest game of her career as the primary weapon, St. Rose exploded for 36 points in the SCT semifinals, including 21 points in the fourth quarter to slam the door shut on the win. It was a performance normally reserved for a seasoned veteran, but she dominated.

St. John Vianney’s success starts with St. Rose, but it doesn’t end there. Junior Katie Hill has been with the program for three years and is a terrific three-point shooter and leader. Underclassmen Megan Cahalan, Christina Whitehead, Emma Bruen and Ashley O’Connor have all stepped up in a major way this season.

NJ girls hoops: St. John Vianney, Manchester advance to SCT final, rematch is set

St. John Vianney proved a major point in the semifinals. Despite having zero seniors on the team and very little varsity experience entering the season, the Lancers pulled themselves out of an eight-point hole in the second half for a comeback victory against a veteran and talented team. They showed that they could get punched in the mouth but bounce right back despite its youth.

St. Rose matches up very well with Manchester junior Destiny Adams in terms of pure talent and star power. Slowing down the six-foot-three Adams will be a major challenge for the relatively small Lancers, but Hill is a solid defender and Cahalan matches up well height-wise with Adams. Plus, an aggressive defense that uses presses will help neutralize some of Manchester’s talent. 

MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP REPORT: The first step to Manchester’s historic 2019 season was its victory against St. John Vianney in the SCT final for its first ever conference title. This team isn’t satisfied, however. The Hawks want more.

Junior Destiny Adams just keeps getting better. She’s established herself as one of the best players in New Jersey. Adams is surrounded by a plethora of skilled guards. Senior point guard Kemari Reynolds is a selfless and athletic player, Serenity Anderson does all the dirty work and Nahkaleigh Hayes-Jones seems to knock down every timely three-pointer she takes.

But what makes Manchester even more special is its two freshmen. Angelica Velez is an energetic guard while Gabriella Ross is just as dangerous. Both play fearlessly and aren’t intimidated by the moment. Add in sophomores Amyah Bray and Mya Hourigan, and the Hawks have some of the best young talent in the state, like St. John Vianney.

Stopping Adams isn’t the easy solution. Adams scored just two first half points against state-ranked Trenton Catholic on January. Despite that, Manchester trailed by just two points at halftime. That’s due to the impressive play of the talented underclassmen.

PREDICTION: Even if both teams were perhaps more talented last year, they both may be deeper and better equipped to win a title this year. With both sides so evenly matched, this game is a virtual coin toss.

Both teams have a star. Both have a collection of polished and fearless youngsters. It’s hard to find an edge for either team.

This is purely a gut pick. St. John Vianney 69, Manchester Township 68.

Danny LoGiudice has covered local sports across New Jersey since 2014. Contact him at dlogiudice@gannettnj.com or @danny_logiudice on Twitter.​​​​​​

 

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