TOMS RIVER – The last thing Leilani Correa wanted to do when she arrived at Manchester was make any waves. However, she was anxious to produce more than a few splashes.

Correa transferred in from Rutgers Prep with a high-profile resume, entering a team already established and with a few accolades of its own. For their part, the Hawks, who returned four starters from an group coming off its second NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 crown in as many years, immediately embraced the West Virginia commit, going out of their way to make her feel welcomed and at home.

“It was a little tough at first, finding where I can fit and how I can best help the team” shared Correa. “But, everyone has been warm and accepting.

In a fashion pure as the silky jumpers that roll off her fingertips, Correa hasn’t procrastinated in carving out her niche.

She posted a couple of double-doubles in the first week of the season, but an event like the semifinals of the WOBM Christmas Classic seemed like the perfect chance to substantiate her reputation for elevating her play in big games.

Correa was nothing short of sizzling Friday night, metaphorically making those splashes with each of the seven 3-pointers she gracefully deposited en route to striking for a season-high 31 points as top-seeded Manchester, the defending champion, stormed past fourth-seeded Ewing, 95-73, at RWJBarnabas Health Arena to advance to the final.

The Hawks (6-0) will matchup against upstart seventh-seed Marlboro for the championship on Sunday at 5:30.

Like any newcomer, Correa craved a smooth transition and nothing more than acceptance. Based on how often junior point guard Kemari Reynolds sought out her hot hand, it seems rather clear the smooth 6-0 guard is officially a Hawk.

“As the stages gets bigger, she rises to the occasion but that is her standard of play,” said Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin. “We have so many girls capable of doing damage and tonight was her night. Her stroke was on, but what makes her so dynamic, is she has every shot…the pull-up jumpers, getting into lanes. She put it all on display and announced her presence for us."

Correa nailed five triples and totaled 15 points in the first quarter alone, instrumental in a in a 25-13 start for Manchester.

“I love this style, Correa said of the Hawks’ fast pace. “Everyone can score and we can run people out of the gym.

To verify that point, Manchester got more than adequate production by its entire crew.  Sophomore swing Destiny Adams recorded a double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds and her senior sister Dakota collected 15 points and 16 boards. The unselfish Reynolds handed out nine assists, junior guard Serenity Anderson picked up six assists and four rebounds and junior reserve Nahkaleigh Hayes-Jones came off the bench to provide eight points.

“It’s her personality and work ethic,” Beauchemin said. “She is a complete player and an unselfish player. She would have the ability to fit in anywhere.”

*Girls Basketball Photos by Paula Lopez*