Highlights of 2014 point guard Katelyn Flaherty and 2015 wing Marina Mabrey who both play for Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey.
Keansburg, NJ -- It’s the opening night of girls basketball in the state of New Jersey. Anticipation fills the air as Point Pleasant Beach gets ready to take the floor for the first time against neighboring Keansburg High School. Just before the tip, Keansburg athletic director Thomas Stark addresses the crowd.
“We’d like to offer you a display of sportsmanship and fellowship,” he says to the Point Pleasant Beach squad. “We understand your loss during the hurricane; we also had losses. We’re going to have a tough game tonight, but when we leave, we are going to leave as one…. Let’s play ball.”
The towns of Keansburg and Point Pleasant Beach were both in the eye of Hurricane Sandy and suffered heavy damage. Even though the storm passed weeks ago, the effects can still be seen and felt.
Point Pleasant Beach team captain Nicole Meyer is one of the many still displaced and struggling to regain her sense of “home.” She lived four blocks from the beach. Her family lost two cars and everything on the ground level of their home.
“The whole first floor was destroyed; everything was gone and ruined,” says Meyer. “We lost the cabinets, the floor, the walls, all our furniture, everything. It was so hard and sad to see my house like that.”
Since the storm, Meyer has been living with her grandmother several towns away from Point Pleasant Beach. It will be months before her home will be reconstructed.
“It’s hectic, because we live far from school now and all my things are all over the place. It’s been very unsettling because everything is so out of place.”
Her teammates share similar stories.
“It was crazy! It felt like we were in a war zone,” recalls junior guard Katelynn Flaherty about the days after the storm. “There was no cars, no power and you felt trapped inside your house.”
“My house in Point Pleasant Beach is gone,” says sophomore wing Marina Mabrey. “It was under five feet of water.”
Flaherty and Mabrey were fortunate; their families had homes further inland to move to. The duo had just transferred from Manasquan High School, and when their rental homes in Point Pleasant Beach were destroyed, they were able to move back to Manasquan.
“I think we were pretty lucky. I had another house to go to; some other people didn’t,” says Mabrey. “You realized that life doesn’t always go the way you expect.”
After the storm, the Point Pleasant Beach gymnasium was converted to a relief center. Both Flaherty and Mabrey pitched in to help distribute food, water and clothing to displaced families in the area.
“There was so many people you couldn’t walk in the gym. There was hundreds of people a day,” recalls Katelynn. “We donated as much as we could, like clothes and shoes.”
“It just shows you how when something bad happens, everyone in the town just comes together and everyone is there to help each other.”
|#24 Katelynn Flaherty passes the ball up the court. The junior, whose family lost their Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., home to Hurricane Sandy, is ranked No. 34 in the 2014 Full Court Fresh 50. (Photo by Kelly Kline)|
As the game gets under way, another perfect storm takes place -- Flaherty and Mabrey combine for 36 points in the first half for a 43-8 lead over Keansburg at the break. Flaherty hits four three-pointers in the game and finishes with 31 points. Mabrey follows that up with 17 points and is perfect from the charity stripe, as Point Pleasant Beach cruises to a 60-18 win.
The duo has provided a shot in the arm for Point Pleasant Beach since they transferred from Manasquan in search of a smaller, more academic setting. Manasquan, which enrolls more than 1,000 students, went 33-2 last season, winning the Group 3 State Championship. Meanwhile, Point Pleasant Beach, with a student body of just over 400, finished 4-14 in the much less competitive Group 1.
Flaherty and Mabrey played a big role in Manasquan's success last year, and the transfers, which Manasquan attempted to block, make Point Pleasant Beach an immediate contender for the Group 1 state championship. The pair are both known as intrepid defenders, and are also quite capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Flaherty, ranked No. 34 in the 2014 Full Court Fresh 50, averaged 21 points, four assists and three steals a game as a sophomore. She shot 80 percent from the free-throw line and after two seasons has racked up 1,250 career points. She was responsible for 27 of Manasquan's 67 points in the state championship victory.
Flaherty had planned to take unofficial visits to Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech until Hurricane Sandy put her recruiting on hold until the spring.
She listed Maryland, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Virginia, Michigan, Georgia, Miami and Vanderbilt as schools that are currently recruiting her.
Marina Mabrey, who averaged 15 points a game last season, is the younger sister of Michaela Mabrey, a former WBCA All-American and now a freshman at Notre Dame. When it comes to college, she aspires to follow in her sister's footsteps. In the meantime, she plans to make the most out of this season at Point Pleasant Beach.
“It’s a new team, it’s very different than where we were at last year, but I think it’s more fun and we are going to go pretty far if everyone can continue developing.”
The two players and their parents have been criticized for the move, but the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association's Eligibility Appeals Committee ruled they would be eligible to play immediately this season after six hours spent in two separate hearings in late November. Point Pleasant Beach head coach Mike Fearst believes the move has been good for all concerned: “It’s been a total positive experience for them and for our girls -- they are great leaders, they have a great attitude and they are athletes.”
Nicole Meyer says thanks to the transfers, her senior season is looking up. “I’m excited because we have a chance to do really well this season. They are really good players, and I hope we can have a winning season.”
Flaherty has her sights set even higher: “It would be good [to] win Central Jersey and try to make it to state.”
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