Manchester Hawks Fly To State Semifinal

In this archived photo, Destiny Adams was the MVP of the WOBM Christmas Classic held at Toms River North. (Photo courtesy Manchester Township High School girls basketball team)

MANCHESTER – The top-seeded Manchester Township High School girls basketball team lived up to its billing, blasting Haddonfield Memorial 54-18 in the championship game of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Tournament on Tuesday night.

Manchester found itself hoisting its second straight SJ II championship plaque while its admirers snapped pictures.

The Hawks (26-4) will meet Manasquan, a 67-43 winner over Lincoln of Jersey City in the Central Jersey Group II finale, in a Group II state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Williamstown High School.

Freshman forward Destiny Adams, whose name is on the lips of NCAA Division I schools, and sophomore guard Kemari Reynolds paced the Hawks with 17 points each. Senior forward Asha Harper and sophomore guard Serenity Anderson added seven points each. Junior forward Dakota Adams contributed six points.

The 6-foot-3 Destiny Adams added 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals.  Dakota Adams picked off eight rebounds.

The Hawks seized control of the game in the first quarter, snapping a 3-3 tie with a 12-0 run as they ended third-seeded Bulldogs’ eight-game winning streak.

The winners slayed the Bulldogs (23-6) with a suffocating man-to-man defense.

“We wanted to come out with our foot on the gas pedal and not let up,” said Harper, who will continue her career at Kean University. “Our plan was to just get at them early.”

The Manchester Hawks enjoy their second straight NJSIAA South Jersey Group II title. (Photo courtesy Loren Jackson)

“We work on our defense most of the time during practice as it is the number one factor in our game,” Destiny Adams said. “We want it to be top notch in order to win. It’s our most dominant factor on the court. We had to work together, play very good defense, pass it (the ball around) and make sure everyone knew what they were doing.”

Manchester seized control of the game, burying the Bulldogs under an 18-0 avalanche that spanned the first and second quarters as the Hawks Nest, the team’s student cheering section, roared its approval.

Destiny Adams put the Hawks in front to stay 6-3 with 4:20 to play in the first quarter when she bombed home a trey from the right wing. A Harper three-pointer from over the middle pushed the lead to 9-3 with 3:54 to go. Dakota Adams buried a jumper from the right corner for an 11-3 lead with 3:14 remaining. Destiny Adams swatted a Haddonfield shot into submission, leading to a Reynolds layup and a 13-3 advantage with 1:52 to go. Reynolds capped the surge with a layup with 36 seconds to play for a 15-3 lead.

“The girls came out to play tonight,” seventh-year Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin said. “It was unbelievable. Anyone we put out there can hit (score) in the double digits. Everyone shares the basketball from post to post. We share the load. We don’t rely on explosive scorers. I am real proud of the girls.”

The Hawks continued to roll in the second quarter to cap the outburst.

Reynolds drove for a layup. Destiny Adams bucketed two free throws and Harper netted a layup to end the outburst.

Destiny Adams paced the Hawks in the first half with 11 points, including eight in the second quarter. Harper and Reynolds netted seven and six points respectively, in the opening 16 minutes.

“The girls know they will distribute the ball to each other,” Beauchemin said. “We are at our best when we do that.”

Not even the halftime intermission could slow the Hawks as they unleashed another avalanche – a 17-0 run that resulted in a 46-10 third-quarter lead. Reynolds, who was seven of 11 from the floor on the night, led the spree with seven points.

“The moment of this game is too important,” Beauchemin said. “We understood we had a lead, but our main focus was that there were still 16 minutes to play. We turned it up. We closed the third really well. I was really happy with the other girls coming on in the fourth quarter as well.”

Destiny Adams, who converted seven of 15 attempts from the field, said she is being recruited by numerous schools, including Louisville, Seton Hall, Maryland, Dayton and Villanova.

“I can’t think of them all,” she said. “I don’t want to go real far from home where my folks won’t be able to see me play. Louisville is a good destination as they can hop on a plane and see my games. I want to stick close to home.”

“Destiny gives us size and versatility,” Beauchemin said.

Manchester athletics director Keith Lister estimated the standing room only crowd at 770 fans.

“The Hawks Nest provides us with so much energy,” Destiny Adams said. “They make us play even harder. They make us more mentally ready.”

“They give us confidence,” Harper said. “They have our backs all of the time. It’s good to win it at home. Our fans and our community came together for us to do this. They are worth 60 percent of our points.”

Manchester’s Asha Harper poses with the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II championship plaque. (Photo courtesy Loren Jackson)

Manchester will need plenty of support against Manasquan, which bested the Hawks 51-34 in the Group II semifinals last year and fell to Franklin Township on a fourth-quarter buzzer beater in the Tournament of Champions final. Manasquan (28-2) has won five straight Central Jersey Group II titles.

“Manasquan is definitely a challenge, but we will be definitely up to the challenge,” Harper said. “They are very elite with Division I players. If we play the way we played tonight, there is the possibility that we can come out with a win.”

“We will do everything we can to be ready for Manasquan,” Beauchemin said. “We know what kind of a task it is for us. We are still a young team. We are very prideful. The future for us is bright. We have girls here who want to get in the mix.”

It’s a mix of champions as the Hawks earlier this season won the WOBM Christmas Classic and shared the Shore Conference Class B South title with Donovan Catholic.

HADDONFIELD: Kelly 0 1-2 1, Stanton 1 2-2 5, Ay 0 2-4 2, Douglas 2 2-2 7, Campo 0 0-0 0, Depersa 0 0-0 0, Feinstein 1 0-0 3, Khas 0 0-0 0, George 0 0-0 0, Windus 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 4 7-10 18

MANCHESTER: Reynolds 7 3-3 17, Anderson 3 0-0 7, Destiny Adams 7 2-3 17, Harper 3 0-1 7, Dakota Adams 3 0-0 6, Labrecque 0 0-0 0, Brustman 0 0-0 0, Hayes-Jones 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24 5-7 54

First half: Manchester 29, Haddonfield 7. Three-point field goals: Stanton (H) 1, Douglas (H) 1, Feinstein (H) 1; Anderson (M) 1, Destiny Adams (M) 1, Harper (M) 1

Team records: Haddonfield 23-4, Manchester 26-4

Toms River North 41, Cherokee 34: Jenna Paul scored 14 points to lead the third-seeded Mariners (27-3) past the top-seeded Chiefs (25-3) in the South Jersey Group IV championship game.

According to published reports, the Mariners fell to the Chiefs in the SJ IV final last year at North on a buzzer beating shot.

In the latest final, Amanda Johnson netted 12 points for the Mariners. Brielle Bisogno added 10 and Lindsay Cabey contributed five.

The Mariners will meet Central Jersey Group IV champion Hunterdon Central (17-11) in the Group IV state semifinals Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Timber Creek in Erial.

North led the Chiefs 18-12 at halftime and 30-21 through three quarters.

The Mariners have won six straight and 12 of their last 13 games.

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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.