HomeIndepenentIndependent SportsLancers defeat Manasquan, 62-46, to win Shore Conference Tournament

Lancers defeat Manasquan, 62-46, to win Shore Conference Tournament

It was not the style of play people have grown accustomed to seeing from the top-ranked Saint John Vianney High School girls basketball team during the first half of the Shore Conference Tournament championship game against Manasquan High School on Feb. 27 at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River.

The Lancers were settling for quick shots and not playing their usual aggressive style of defense. The team’s early performance let the Warriors stand toe to toe with the Lancers and lead 16-13 midway through the second quarter.

At that point, the Lancers got back to playing their brand of basketball and junior Zoe Brooks gave Saint John Vianney a 25-23 lead at halftime.

After the break, the nationally ranked Lancers came out strong and rolled to a 62-46 victory to win their second consecutive conference championship and 15th in program history.

“We definitely turned things up a notch on defense in the second half,” Coach Dawn Karpell said. “It’s great to win the (tournament) after going through COVID last year. It was fun to see the girls play well in this environment in front of everyone in our area.”

Senior Megan Cahalan scored on a layup to start the third quarter and then senior Madison St. Rose came alive.

St. Rose, who has committed to Princeton University, connected on two three-point field goals and scored 10 points in a five-minute stretch as the Lancers extended their lead to 42-29 with 3:13 to play in the third quarter.

“I was slow in the beginning of the game, but I still had the confidence to keep going,” St. Rose said. “I had confidence in my team. I knew once my team got going that it was going to give me confidence to make shots.”

St. Rose finished with a game-high 21 points and won her second Shore Conference Tournament Finals Most Valuable Player award.

St. Rose’s first Finals MVP award came during the 2020 tournament championship game against Manchester High School, during which she scored 23 points to lead Saint John Vianney to a 57-50 victory over the Hawks.

A few weeks later, St. Rose scored 21 points to help the Lancers win the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A state sectional tournament championship.

The 2020-21 postseason was altered by the coronavirus pandemic and resulted in changes in the postseason tournaments.

In the Shore Conference Pod A tournament championship game against Red Bank Catholic High School, St. Rose scored 20 points as the Lancers defeated the Caseys and completed a 14-0 campaign.

St. Rose said she does not feel any pressure when the Lancers play on the big stage in championship games. She said that even after the slow start against Manasquan, she was confident things would turn around.

“I know every one of our players on the court has that drive to win,” St. Rose said. “I had confidence in my team that we were going to pull through.”

The Lancers outscored the Warriors, 21-10, in the third quarter and led 46-33 heading into the fourth quarter.

Brooks scored five points during a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter as the Lancers pushed the lead to 53-33.

Brooks, a junior transfer from Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, finished with 20 points and nine rebounds in her first Shore Conference Tournament championship game with the Lancers.

“It was fun to be out here,” Brooks said. “The environment was great. Once we started figuring out (Manasquan’s) defense in the third and fourth quarters, we started to spread (the lead) away.”

Brooks is averaging 17.7 points per game and leads the team in assists and steals. The 2021-22 campaign has been a great first season at the school in Holmdel for Brooks, who has enjoyed playing for Karpell and the Lancers.

“Dawn is a really good coach and pushes me a lot,” Brooks said. “We are a really deep team, so we get to compete a lot in practice. It’s just a fun atmosphere to be around.”

Junior Janie Bachmann contributed six points and three rebounds in the victory over Manasquan.

Saint John Vianney (26-1) has been unbeatable in New Jersey over the past three years. The Lancers have won 58 consecutive games against state opponents.

The team’s only loss this season was a 73-58 defeat to the Sidwell Friends School of Washington, D.C.

Winning the Shore Conference Tournament was the first step in what the Lancers hope will be a successful postseason. The players are aiming to end the campaign by winning the  NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

Saint John Vianney last won the Tournament of Champions in 2016-17 to complete a 31-1 season.

This will be the final season the NJSIAA will conduct the Tournament of Champions and St. Rose said it would be an honor to help the Lancers become the last team to win the prestigious event.

“For us to make it that far and possibly win and be champions would be an honor,” St. Rose said. “I would do anything to help my team get there.”

Before St. Rose and the Lancers can start thinking about the Tournament of Champions, they will have to take care of business in the state sectional and state group tournaments.

Saint John Vianney is the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A sectional tournament. The Lancers will host Notre Dame or Immaculata in the quarterfinals on March 4.

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