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BRICK TWP. -- After four dominant performances on its home court, the Manasquan boys basketball team had to adapt to a different environment, a senior-laden team with unique ability and tense, late-game moments with a trip to the NJSIAA Group III final on the line.

All that proved to be too much Thursday night at Brick Memorial High School, where Manasquan's push for its first ever NJSIAA group championship came to an end against Woodrow Wilson, 44-39.

"Credit their defense, but we just didn't quite finish," Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said. "We needed to finish some things: around the rim, some looks we got that we thought were good looks."

Zoe Holman -- a six-foot guard who is one of four senior starters for the Tigers -- scored eight of his team-high 12 points in the second half and his team successfully sped up Manasquan's offense while on the defensive end and slowed the game down on the offensive end.

"I definitely think it's a learning experience for them in the future," senior Matt Solomon said. "Obviously, we would have loved to come out with the win tonight, but it was a fun way to go out. We almost came back at the end, it was a great atmosphere."

"It was a fun environment for us," sophomore Ryan Frauenheim said. "We expected a game like that from them. We knew they were going to be up in our grill when we had the ball and we expected that, so it was fun. We just hoped it would turn out different."

Holman started the fourth quarter with a drive to the basket to extend Wilson's lead to 33-27 and after a three-pointer by senior Jayden Brown bounced around the rim and in, Holman again blew by his man for a score at the rim to push Wilson's lead to 38-29.

Right after Holman's drive, sophomore Will Love stole the inbound pass and laid it in for a 40-29 Tigers lead -- the largest of the game.

"Our best offense is our defense," Woodrow Wilson first-year head coach Kenneth Avent said. "That's a really good team we beat today. We disrupted what they wanted to do. They hit (13) threes the other night (against Robbinsville) so we just knew we had to run them off the line. We wanted to do our best to keep them off the glass and make them make tough shots."

Manasquan mounted one last challenge, with freshman Darius Adams hitting a pair of free-throws, a wild finish on a drive to the basket and a layup off a steal to help Manasquan chop the lead down to 42-37 with 1:42 left.

Senior Dan Hyland and junior Jack Dettlinger came off the bench to help Adams get the two layups, with Hyland diving on the floor to win a loose ball under Manasquan's own basket to start the break, and Dettlinger deflecting the pass that led to Adams's steal in the backcourt and layup.

Adams finished with a game-high 18 points and Frauenheim added 11 for Manasquan. Solomon also contributed seven points and eight rebounds, but the rest of the team combined for only three points.

"We have played in a lot of consequential games: the Patrick School, Roselle Catholic and St. Joe's Metuchen and Shore Conference Tournament games," Bilodeau said. "This group got a few pelts on the wall now and they have done a beautiful job all along playing in games of consequence. Unfortunately, tonight. Woodrow Wilson was better than us. Tonight."

Manasquan's last lead of the game came at the end of the second quarter, with Adams hitting a corner two-pointer with his foot on the line to put the Warriors ahead, 22-19.

Woodrow Wilson responded with the last four points of the quarter and before senior James Proctor hit a short jumper at the halftime buzzer to give his team a 23-22 lead, the Tigers bled 1:17 off the clock.

Those long possessions became commonplace for Woodrow Wilson as it protected its lead. After Manasquan pulled within 42-37, the Tigers took nearly a minute off the clock before the Warriors sent Holman to the free-throw line for the 1-and-1. After missing his last two free-throw attempts, Wilson's leading scorer sank both to push the lead back to seven, 44-37.

An ill-advised Woodrow Wilson shot following a Manasquan miss gave the Warriors the ball back and Frauenheim cashed in with a tough bank shot, but it came with just 17.6 seconds left.

Woodrow Wilson head to Rutgers Sunday to take on Ramapo in the Group III championship, which will be the Tigers' first trip to the group final round since 1991. The program has won four overall championships, but has gone without a group championship since 1985.

Manasquan, meanwhile, has lost in the group semifinal round each of the last four times it has played in it. The Warriors also earned a trip to the Group II semifinal in 2020, but its anticipated game vs. Camden was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Manasquan has been to one overall group championship game -- the 2004 Group III championship, which it lost to Raritan.

With Adams, Frauenheim, freshman Griffin Linstra and sophomore Alex Konov all set to return next season, Manasquan is set up nicely to make a serious run at a the elusive group championship next year.

"I think the kids have done a great job of developing all year," Bilodeau said. "I think we surprised some people, except ourselves. We'll see how much better we can get now in the offseason."

As for the senior class led by Solomon and Ben Roy -- the latter of whom missed the entire season due to a torn ACL after winning back-to-back Shore Conference Player of the Year awards -- Bilodeau has an open-door policy for alumni and many of Manasquan's standouts during his 14-year tenure have taken him up on the offer.

"Ben has been really important for us off the court, just like all of our seniors have been for us," Bilodeau said. "As usually happens at Squan, they learned from the guys ahead of them and they came through for us in many ways, and not just on the court: in practice and leadership-wise. I thought the senior class did a beautiful job on and off the floor."

"These guys have done so much for us," Frauenheim said. "We just can't thank them enough. I'm so proud of them, even the guys who don't play as much. They show up every day, work their ass off. I'm just going to miss them so much."

Solomon, who will attend the College of New Jersey next school year, said he plans to be a part of that group of Manasquan basketball alumni who stay attached to the program.

"Manasquan is unlike most places," Solomon said. "We're like a family. You can graduate, but you are always going to be a part of the Manasquan family and you are always going to be part of the team.

And just like the former Warriors who invested their time and emotion into this year's 25-6 season, Solomon hopes to celebrate a group championship sometime down the line.

"A bunch of those guys were there when we won a sectional title a few days ago, and I'm sure they felt like they won it too, because a piece of their heart is always in Manasquan. Although I'm graduating and I'm no longer playing basketball here, I'm always going to be a Manasquan basketball player."


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