TOMS RIVER – The Manchester Township High School Hawks were a team of Destiny.
Freshman forward Destiny Adams scored 28 points to propel the top-seeded Hawks past second-ranked Toms River North 61-48 in the championship game of the WOBM Christmas Classic in girls basketball action.
Named the Classic’s Most Valuable Player, Adams picked off 13 rebounds and added three assists and two steals for the Hawks (7-0). The 6-foot-3 freshman put home two shots from downtown, spicing her showing at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena.
“Destiny plays every bit of 6-3,” Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin said. “There were high expectations entering this season and she has done everything to live up to them. She scores in bunches and scores so efficiently. She does not force shots. She is not a high volume shooter. She gets a lot of layups and is very good on free throws.
“She begins her offensive game on the perimeter. She gives us an interesting dynamic and is hard to guard. She is beginning to learn the varsity game. She plays pretty much everywhere. We will have her on the perimeter on one possession and on the low block on the next possession.”
Adams scored 10 points and added eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in a first-round 64-13 win over No. 16 Sayreville. She burned No. 8 Colts Neck for 23 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, two steals and three blocks in a 68-29 win. She knocked down three treys and netted six free throws against Colts Neck.
She followed with six points, three rebounds and two assists in a 51-35 conquest of No. 5 Middletown South in the semifinals.
Adams began her varsity career with 28 points, six rebounds, four steals and one assist in a 67-63 win over Donovan Catholic in the regular-season opener for both teams. She bucketed two treys against the Griffins.
“Destiny usually has quite a size advantage on the girl who defends her,” said Beauchemin, a 2000 Jackson Memorial graduate. “Destiny has an array of moves near the basket. She does not have the old school hook shot, but she has the drop step and the middle turn. She squares her shoulder and is real strong with both hands.”
Kemari Reynolds, a 5-8 sophomore guard, added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals against the 2016 champion Mariners. Reynolds netted six free throws. She erupted for 25 points – she converted 14 free throws – and added seven rebounds, three steals and two assists against Donovan.
“She is doing great and has really adapted,” said Beauchemin, assisted by Troy Madison and Sarah Paturzo. “She has taken control of our offense. She has shown a great maturity in the way she has evolved with the talented pieces (players) who are around her.”
The Hawks sped to an 18-7 first-quarter lead against the Mariners, who lost their first game of the season in seven outings.
“Pretty much everything worked well,” said Beauchemin, the Hawks’ seventh-year coach. “We started getting out in transition right away. We began the game with an 8-0 run and set the tone for ourselves. Once the game settled down and we got into our half court sets we were really in a great rhythm. Reynolds was a big-time defender in the first quarter. She and Destiny did most of their defending on the perimeter.
“Both started for us last year (when the Hawks captured the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II title for their first sectional crown in school history and won 24 games to tie the school’s single-season record).”
Jenna Pack paced North with 13 points. Brielle Bisogno added 10 points and six rebounds. Amanda Johnson added 10 points and four rebounds. Kristina Johnson contributed six points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block.
“North played a great game,” Beauchemin said. “They have been a solid team in the Shore Conference for a long time. For the last few years, they have set the bar high for Ocean County girls basketball.”
Manchester made the most of its first trip to the championship game of the Classic, born in 1994.
Manchester has also received solid play from junior forward Dakota Adams, sophomore guard Serenity Anderson, senior forward Asha Harper and sophomore guard Nahkaleigh Hayes-Jones.
“Dakota is off to a great start and is very, very tough on the glass at 5-10,” Beauchemin said. “She is so good at making put backs. She boxes out so well and attacks the ball at its peak. She knows how to box out and keep her girl away from the ball. She goes and gets it.”
Destiny Adams, Dakota Adams and Dejah Adams (the latter hit a clutch shot for the Hawks last season) have solid genetics. Their father is Manchester principal Dennis Adams, the former Manchester football, basketball and baseball standout. Dejah Adams’ trey in the waning seconds gave the Hawks their sectional championship.
Anderson put her 5-9 frame to good use. She scored seven points and added eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block against North. She rained home two treys against the Mariners.
“She started during most of last season for us,” Beauchemin said. “She is a very, very smooth player who is a very, very solid guard in her own right. She likes to distribute the ball and has a nice three-point shot. She is very deceptive in her hesitation dribble. Her very long arms give us a good defender as she gets her hands on the balls that are in the passing lanes.”
The 5-10 Harper provides strong intangibles.
“She is a senior leader in every way,” Beauchemin said. “She can hit the three and play with her back to the basket. She can defend the power forwards and centers. When we see a zone defense, she is our high post player as she is such a tremendous passer.
Hayes-Jones joined the varsity last season after spending the early part of the year at the junior varsity level.
“She has grown into her role,” Beauchemin said. “We know she will continue to develop. She is our ‘x’ factor off the bench. She is our sixth man and is doing a great job.”
Rounding out the team are 5-6 sophomore guard Victoria Labrecque, 5-7 freshman guard Morgan Brustman, 5-4 senior guard Cara Johnson and 5-7 junior guard Olivia Collura.
“We try to play the complete game on offense and defense,” Beauchemin said. “I respect and see the athleticism we have so when we have the chance we want to play the game fast. We also have the ability to execute in the half court offense. On defense, we pretty much play man-to-man and the girls embrace it.
“Tempo. Tempo. Tempo. That is the key.”