Neptune D thwarts SJV in TOC final

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

The hurt will eventually go away, and the St. John Vianney High School girls basketball team will be on a mission in 2010-11.

St. John Vianney’s Jackie Kates (back) and Clare Kerrisk pressured Neptune’s Shakena Richardson (c) into making a forced pass during the March 23 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final played at the Izod Center. Neptune won the battle of Shore Conference powers, 67-48. More photos, page 32 and at JEFF GRANIT staff St. John Vianney’s Jackie Kates (back) and Clare Kerrisk pressured Neptune’s Shakena Richardson (c) into making a forced pass during the March 23 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final played at the Izod Center. Neptune won the battle of Shore Conference powers, 67-48. More photos, page 32 and at JEFF GRANIT staff The Lancers’ bid to win back-to-back NJSIAA Tournament of Champions titles was thwarted by the top-seeded Neptune Fliers on March 23 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, 67-48.

The Fliers broke open what was a great back-and-forth championship game with a 9-0 run from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth that stretched a 42-40 lead to 51- 40.

“We had to come out of what we do,” SJV head coach Dawn Karpell said of her team’s plight after they fell behind by 11. “We didn’t finish, and they got some run-outs.”

Neptune is at its absolute best in the open floor, and once Vianney had to play catch-up, the Fliers were able to unleash their vaunted running game, complete with Shakena Richardson no-look passes.

Up to that point in the fourth quarter, the Lancers had done a fine job of dictating the tempo of the game and keeping the Fliers’ running game in check.

Neptune, seeking to become the first Shore Conference public school to win the TOC, looked like the team that had SJV’s championship pedigree from the start. The Fliers, making their first TOC finals appearance, displayed no sign of nerves. They were hitting everything they put up against the Lancers’ stingy defense, and 6-2 center Chyna Golden was presenting problems under the basket. They closed the first period on a 15-4 spurt that took them from trialing 8-7 to a 22-12 lead.

“They shot the ball well,” said Karpell. “They got good looks.”

Neptune head coach John Brown said his team arrived two hours early in order to practice their shooting.

“We got a lot of shots in,” he remarked.

Those 22 points were all that the Lancers had surrendered in four quarters in their TOC semifinal win over Malcolm X Shabazz High School, 37-22.

Karpell remarked that one of the team’s defensive goals was to keep the Flier guards out of the lane, something they didn’t do well in the opening quarter.

After the Fliers closed the first quarter with such a flurry, there were questions of whether this would be a competitive game.

But the proud Lancers were not going to give up their TOC crown (won over Colts Neck High School in 2009) without a fight. Forwards Aaron Zimmerman and Katie O’Reilly, who battled foul trouble all night, combined to score the first six points of the second quarter, and just like that, the Lancers were back in it, trailing 22-19.

After a three-point play by the Fliers’ Syessence Davis, the Lancers ran off seven straight points to take the lead, 26-25. Back-toback threes by Missy Repoli and O’Reilly put them on top.

But Neptune responded and scored the last four points of the quarter to lead 29-26 at the half.

There was reason for the Lancers to feel optimistic.

“We felt good after we came back in the second quarter,” said Repoli, who was the Lancers’ leading scorer during the playoffs. “It was a game of runs.”

The next run would be SJV’s. With Repoli canning another three, the Lancers ran off seven straight points to take a 33-31 lead. But as they did all night, the Fliers answered quickly,

Sehmonyeh Allen hit a three to put her team back up, 34-33, and added another score and an old fashioned three (basket plus the free throw) to put the Fliers up 39-35. That was eight straight Neptune points scored by the team’s lone senior.

Repoli pulled the Lancers to within one, 39- 38, but Davis hit a big three to stretch it to four. O’Reilly answered with a basket, and it was 42- 40 Neptune.

With 31 seconds left in the third quarter, O’Reilly, who had hurt the Flier defense all night attacking the basket, went to the bench with her fourth foul.

For the first time this year, both of SJV’s bigs, Zimmerman and O’Reilly, were in foul trouble in the same game (Zimmerman played only 18 minutes and O’Reilly 24), and Neptune took notice and attacked the basket, leading to the 9-0 run that lifted the Fliers to a 51-40 lead.

With the Lancers forced to pick up the pace and score, that allowed the Fliers to get out and run and blow the game open as Richardson put on a dazzling display of passing. She would lead the Fliers with 20 points and add a gamehigh eight assists. The junior guard was named Neptune’s Most Valuable Player of the game.

Allen added 18 and Golden 14 for the Fliers, who ended their dream season at 30-1.

O’Reilly was the game’s high scorer with 22 points and was named SJV’s MVP. Repoli added 18, but no one else scored more than two points.

Point guard Jackie Kates, playing on a sprained ankle she had suffered in the TOC semifinal win over Shabazz, credited the Neptune defense for the Lancers’ woes.

“They played great defense on me,” said Kates, who was held scoreless and had three assists. “Syessence did a great job on me.

“It was more their defense than [our] bad offense,” she added. “Their defense was great.”

St. John Vianney, which has won a record six TOC titles, finished its season at 28-4.

Considering all that happened to the Lancers in the year since they won their record sixth crown, getting back to the final was an extraordinary accomplishment. They lost their leading scorer (Laura Kinney) to graduation, and heir apparent Michaela Mabrey transferred to Manasquan. Senior captain and leading scorer Teresa Manigrasso tore her ACL midway through the season, casting a pall over the team. Yet they regrouped and rebounded to win their 14th State Group title and win two games in the TOC.

“I am extremely proud of what they were able to accomplish this season,” said Karpell. “I can’t be prouder of the way they came together and overcame adversity.

“To get here [TOC final] this year is something special,” she added. “There were [about] 350 teams in the state that wanted to be here tonight. We were one of the two, and that makes it special.”

Kates said the loss will motivate the Lancers to work even harder in the offseason.

“We’re upset now,” she said. “This makes us that much hungrier to come back next year and win it.”

Next year could very well be an all-Shore affair again between these two powers. Both Neptune and St. John will return four of their five starters and the majority of their supporting cast. In the Lancers’ case, all but Clare Kerrisk return.

It will be a long offseason for the Lancers, but as Kates noted, they’ll come back more determined than ever.