Paula banner-1




TOMS RIVER - One of the best things about Marlboro’s offensive design is how it encouraged shooters to do what they do best.

Shoot…and shoot often.

Occasional cold spells can be quickly shrugged off because one of the biggest elements to running the system hinges on a relentless barrage of perimeter jumpers. Inviting long-range specialists like Jessica Riepe and Sam Nocco to fire at will from beyond the arc is the equivalent of asking a sweet tooth to sample the candy.

“With this new system, I feel that it’s a lot more to my style and I feel comfortable. It’s definitely different than last year,” said Riepe, a 5-8 sophomore swing. “It’s a good feeling to know I can keep shooting and eventually the shots are going to fall.”

Amid a chilly long-range display by Marlboro, Riepe was one of the few who had no problem finding her touch, striking for 11 of her 13 points before halftime and buying time for the rest of the Mustangs to follow her lead.

After a seesaw first half that featured five lead changes and three ties, seventh-seeded Marlboro slipped into its offensive groove, using a third-quarter tear to seize the one lead that mattered most – the last one - en route to toppling third-seeded Toms River North, 72-60, on Friday night in the semifinal round of the WOBM Christmas Classic at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena.

Marlboro (6-0) advanced to the championship game on Sunday at 5:30 where it will tackle top-seeded and defending champion Manchester, a 95-73 winner against fourth-seeded Ewing.

The final exit to the final was a treacherous one. Toms River North (5-1) constructed a 20-15 lead in the first quarter, stamped by senior Brielle Bisogno, who was responsible for 10 and ended the period by catching an inbounds on the right wing with one second left and heaving a desperation, off-balancer 3-point bid that banked in with a kiss off the glass.

The Mariners took a 32-30 edge into halftime, a deficit Marlboro wasted no time erasing in the third. Sophomore Sammy Jay canned a three at the outset of the quarter, sparking a 13-4 burst that featured the Mustangs at their best.

Nocco sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around another from senior forward Theresa Besso to close out the tear and open Marlboro’s largest lead to that point at 43-36 with 3:41 showing. Toms River North whittled the deficit to 48-46 entering the fourth but senior point guard Gisella Romeo went to work by changing the course of attack.

Her piercing drives yielded two free throws and a layup as the halfcourt began to open up for Marlboro. The hustle of Riepe and 5-10 junior Brianna Diaz on the offensive glass reaped each an interior bucket. Those contributions, coupled with a trey by sophomore guard Laura Morehead and another driving finish from Romeo widened the gap to 61-48 midway through the final quarter.

“Brianna Diaz is so tough and physical crashing the boards,” praised Hagensen. “That’s huge for us and so important to success. It’s great that kids that don’t get a whole lot of recognition feel like they are a part of this and can contribute and we have several players like that who’ve come up big in key spots.”

Proven by the balance of scoring. Ten different sources chipped into the scoring sum Besso and Riepe leading the way with 13 points apiece. Jay accumulated nine of her 12 from the charity stripe and Romeo supplied seven of her 11 points in the second half.

“We all came together,” said Romeo. “Riepe hit those big shots and stepped up, Besso and Nocco came through…everyone was involved.”

Senior forward Jenna Paul led all scorers with 21 points, part of a monster double-double that included 15 rebounds as well as four assists for Toms River North. Bisogno put in 16 and junior swing Kristina Johnson had 13 and eight boards for the Mariners.

Marlboro (6-0)                  15           15           18           24 ---72
Toms River North (5-1)    20           12           14           14 --- 60

Marlboro: Gisella Romeo 4-0-3-11; Theresa Besso 1-3-2-13; Brianna Diaz 4-0-1-9; Sam Nocco 0-2-0-6; Sammy Jay 0-1-9-12; Samantha Slofkiss 0-0-1-1; Alexandra O’Hare 0-1-0-3; Danielle Schlesinger 0-0-1-1; Ashley Horowitz 0-0-0-0; Jessica Riepe 4-1-2-13; Laura Morehead 0-1-0-3; Meghan Gill 0-0-0-0.

Toms River North: Brielle Bisogno 3-3-1-16; Jenna Paul 8-0-5-21; Kristina Johnson 4-0-5-13; Sydney Howell 1-0-1-3; Brandi Manna 1-0-0-2; Faith Wavershak 0-0-3-3; Jaclyn Benvenuto 1-0-0-2; Gia Pissott 0-0-0-0.

More From 92.7 WOBM