By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Maddy Doring didn’t have an answer and wasn’t making excuses.
“Honestly, we kind of forgot what got us here,” said the senior guard after her top-seeded St. John Vianney girls’ basketball team dropped a 70-52 decision to second-seeded Manasquan in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game Feb. 24. “Defensively, we were kind of all over the place. It’s not like the stage overwhelmed us or anything. All of the upperclassmen, this is our third year here, so I don’t know, we really just weren’t ourselves. It’s a shame.”
Photo Gallery: St. John Vianney in Shore Conference Tournament
“The stage” was the OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University, West Long Branch, where a packed house watched a rematch of the 2016 title game won by SJV. This time, the best senior on the floor was wearing a Warriors uniform, as Virginia Tech-bound Dara Mabrey collected 33 points on 11-for-16 shooting.
“She wasn’t gonna be denied,” SJV coach Dawn Karpell said. “We had some schemes in place but didn’t really execute them as well as I would have liked. Offensively, we didn’t make enough shots to keep ourselves hanging around to overcome their hot shooting. Hats off to Manasquan and what they were able to accomplish.”
The Warriors (24-2) got off to a blistering start, hitting 8 of 11 shots for an 18-12 lead after one quarter. SJV (24-2), which lost to a New Jersey team for the first time this season, hung in and trailed 31-25 at halftime. But Manasquan opened the third quarter with a 10-3 run for a 41-28 lead, and the Lancers could never get the deficit under 10 from that point.
SJV’s best chance to apply pressure came early in the fourth quarter when it got within 11 and had a chance to get closer. But a missed 3-pointer gave way to 9-3 run that broke the game open. Manasquan shot an eye-popping 64 percent (25-for-39).
“The thing was, we had to come out of what we were usually doing because we had to find a way to even compete,” Doring said. “We were just kind of competing from behind the whole time. We were going uphill, so there’s not much you can do. But we fought; we didn’t give up.”
In the lockerroom, Karpell told her team it just wasn’t their night.
“I felt like we kind of met them the first quarter-and-a-half, we were right there with them,” Karpell said. “In the second half, they extended [the lead], and we didn’t have enough to kind of put the pressure back on them to make it more of a challenge.
“The thing I was most disappointed in is we’ve done a great job of defending this year, and tonight we kind of lost sight of that,” she continued. “It’s just one we gotta put behind us because the state tournament is the next one in front of us, and that’s a big one.”
The states will be a meat grinder similar to the SCT, as the Lancers, Red Bank Catholic and St. Rose of Belmar are all in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A bracket along with Gloucester Catholic (St. Rose moved up from Group A).
“This was just the conference; we’re coming back bigger, better and harder in states,” Doring promised. “You’ll definitely see us there.”
Doring had nothing to be ashamed of against Manasquan, as she had 17 points, 2 assists, 3 steals and shot 6-for-10. Sajada Bonner (15 points) also hit double figures for SJV.
“I thought Maddy was attacking well,” Karpell said. “They were in a zone, so she was able to get herself into the gaps. Defensively, she brought some good energy and really did play like a senior. The other thing that kind of hurt a little bit was [forward Sarah] Furch trying to trooper through, but she kind of had the flu. She gave us everything she had and was kind of gassed. But Maddy met the challenge well.”
Furch and Doring were both sophomores on the 2016 team that won a record 13th SCT title. They ended their careers with three straight trips to the finals, which Karpell feels is an accomplishment in itself.
“Of course it is,” the 12th-year coach said. “The top teams in the state are sitting here, and it is like a state tournament run when you get into this tournament because there are just so many quality opponents in there.”