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Toms River, N.J. - Pushed to the limit in Tuesday’s Shore Conference Tournament semifinal game against No. 3 seed Manasquan, the No. 1 seeded St. John Vianney girls basketball team rose to the occasion in the final quarter of action to advance to its second straight finals appearance.
Avenging last season’s Shore Conference Tournament finals loss to Manasquan, the Lancers rallied from an 11-point first half deficit and trailing by eight points in the third quarter, to finish the contest on a 22-11 run to defeat the Warriors 53-51.
“Manasquan has been in our way in the Shore Conference Tournament it seems like every year,” said St. John Vianney girls basketball coach Dawn Karpell. “Last year they embarrassed us. The seniors made sure that it didn’t happen again to get the win.”
A tough start to the contest had the Lancers trailing Manasquan 24-13 after a Faith Masonius bucket with just under three minutes to play in the first half.
In the final two minutes of the half, St. John Vianney got themselves back in the contest thanks to senior Brelynn Bellamy leading an 8-0 run to end the half..
Bellamy knocked in two three-pointers in the final two minutes, which included knocking down a triple from the left wing off a nice pass from Sajada Bonner with 16 seconds left to cut the Manasquan lead to 24-21 going into halftime.
Bellamy had three three-pointers to help her tally 11 of her team-high 17 points in the first half.
“After hitting the first two (three-pointers) I started feeling very confident,” Bellamy said. “Three-pointers aren’t a big part of my game, but saw it was working and just kept rolling with shooting them when I had the open look. Happy to knock them down for my team.”
Bellamy nailed in her fourth three-pointer of the night with 4:06 to play in the third quarter to cut the Manasquan lead to 30-29.
Mansonius responded right back with a strong run of her own to extend the Manasquan lead.
The senior drove to the hoop for the bucket and the foul, completing the three-point play by knocking down the free throw at the strike to extend the Manasquan lead to four.
Moments later, Masonius struck again for the Warriors by knocking in another bucket to put Manasquan on 37-29. Masonius scored 11 points in the third quarter.
St. Vianney went on a quick 6-0 run to finish the quarter, capped by Sarah Karpell drilling her third three-pointer of the contest to trim the Manasquan lead to 37-35 going into the fourth quarter.
Karpell scored 10 points in the contest for St. John Vianney.
Stepping up in a big way to begin the fourth quarter for the Lancers was freshman Madison St. Rose.
From right outside the top of the key, St. Rose knocked home a three-pointer to give St. John Vianney its first lead of the contest.
On the following possession, St. Rose continued to flourish for the Lancers by connecting on a layup to give St. John Vianney a 40-37 lead.
St. Rose finished with 11 points and three blocks in the win for St. John Vianney.
“If they were going to leave me open, I was going to shoot it,” St. Rose said. “I knew we were down by two points and just took that chance. I really wanted to win this game. I didn’t care what it took to do it.”
Bonner struck for a layup and then a huge three-pointer from the left corner off a great pass from St. Rose to make it a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter for St. John Vianney and to put the Lancers up 45-37.
The senior connected for another layup to put the Lancers up 47-39 with 4:33 left to play, giving St. John Vianney four players in double figures on the night with 11 points.
Bonner has now scored 10 or more points in 15 straight games.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Bonner said. “Helping my team win is most important. Manasquan is a good team. Beating them shows how far we have come.”
St. John Vianney led 48-40 with 3:44 left to play, before Masonius led Manasquan on one last run to try to steal the game.
Two straight buckets from Masonius cut the St. John Vianney lead to four. The Lancers’ lead was down to two until Bellamy rocketed in her fifth three-pointer of the night to put St. John Vianney up 51-46 with 1:58 to play.
A pair of free throws from Rahmena Henderson with 56 seconds left extended the Lancers’ lead to 53-46.
Masonius kept the Lancers from clinching victory, draining a three-pointer to make it a four-point game with 23 seconds to play.
St. John Vianney failed to extend its lead at the free-throw line, allowing Masonius again to keep Manasquan alive, driving to the bucket for the basket and the foul to make it a two-point game with 2.4 seconds left.
Mansonius finished with a game-high 33 points scored for Manasquan.
Masonius missed the free-throw on purpose to give Manasquan a chance for a rebound and a quick bucket to tie, resulting in the ball being knocked out of bounds by St. John Vianney with 0.3 seconds left.
A stop away from redemption and a trip back to the finals, St. John Vianney got the stop they needed as Mansious was called for the foul with the push trying to get in position for the tip-in as time expired.
“Manasquan punched us in the nose in the first half,” Karpell said. “We refocused up at halftime. We’re a defensive minded team. We got our defense to click during the second half. Rahmena (Henderson) did a great job guarding Lola (Mullaney). Madison (St.Rose) and Sarah (Karpell) did a good job for us in help defense and double teams.”
St. John Vianney had 10 three-pointers in the win.
The Lancers are now 21-2 on the season. St. John Vianney will play No. 3 Manchester in the finals of Saturday at 7 p.m.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports