Bulldogs proud of girls’ hoops season despite sectional finals loss

By Matthew Rocco

A heartbreaking end to the NJSIAA girls’ basketball tournament — and the entire season — won’t cast a shadow over Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s accomplishments over the past three months.

In the Central Jersey, Group II finals, the Bulldogs had a one-point advantage over Manasquan High School thanks to Tori Hyduke’s acrobatic shot off the glass with only seconds remaining. But euphoria quickly turned to shock, as a controversial foul call put the Warriors on the line for the game-winning free throws.

It was a tough conclusion for the Bulldogs to digest.

“The girls felt very proud of their performance. If it wasn’t for a highly questionable call, we would be state champions,” head coach Dave Callahan said.

He added that Manasquan deserves credit for making those final seconds count.

“Manasquan’s a champion. They stepped up and made two big free throws. They earned it,” he said.

Rumson-Fair Haven rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 66-65 lead with six seconds on the clock. The Warriors gave the ball to their go-to scorer, Dara Mabrey, who pushed the ball to the basket and drew the foul call for a one-and-one. With 0.2 seconds to go before the buzzer, Mabrey drained two free throws to secure the 67-66 win for Manasquan.

Rather than dwell on the loss, the Bulldogs hope to learn something from the experience.

Five days later, Callahan was still receiving several text messages a day with words of encouragement after a wild end to the 2016-17 season. The first-year head coach appreciates the support, but he said it’s time for the program to move forward.

“It was a very painful way for the season to end, but going through that, we’re better because of it,” Callahan said.

The Bulldogs (22-7), who placed second in the Shore Conference A Central Division behind Saint John Vianney High School, will retain a talented group for next season.

Hyduke is one of the most competitive players Callahan has ever seen on the court, and he believes the junior will prove to be the most talented returning point guard in the state. Junior Michaela McGarvey showed off her defensive skills this season. She would normally cover each opponent’s best player.

Freshman Lucy Adams will also headline the group of returning players next season. Callahan said Adams “kept getting better as the season went on.”

Leading scorer Hannah Scanlan will say her goodbyes to the team, as will fellow seniors Katie Foos, Abigail Kelly, Megan Volker and Kyra Weiner.

Scanlan is headed to Bryant University. Foos, a strong 3-point shooter, will play for New York University.

“Coming in for my first year, I couldn’t have handpicked a better set of five seniors to have,” Callahan said.

Callahan praised the entire team for their hard work throughout the winter, saying the Bulldogs also had something to teach their head coach.

“I coached a couple girls’ youth teams, but I’ve always coached boys’ teams [in high school]. What you really learn is basketball’s the same, whether it’s boys or girls,” he said. “These kids were sponges who wanted to get better every practice and every game. I read a couple books about the differences between coaching men vs. woman, but I think they made me better because of our interactions on a day-to-day basis. This was a crew that gave me everything. They gave me their heart and soul, and we fostered trust together.”

The Bulldogs left Callahan will no doubts about what they can accomplish in a year’s time.