By Mike Ready
TOMS RIVER – Both St. Rose and Manchester’s seasons’ came to disappointing conclusions in the Tournament of Champions semifinals, but the two schools have nothing to hang their heads about after pushing each of their slightly favored opponents to the limit. 
No.1 Franklin 55, No. 4 St. Rose 50
The upset-minded Purple Roses (28-3) gave top-seeded and undefeated Franklin a run for their money, but in the end, the three-time defending Group 4 champions held off St. Rose for the victory. 
St. Rose went toe-to-toe with the 2017 TOC champions for much the game, playing the Warriors even in the first half when they ended knotted, 25-25, at intermission. Junior Brynn Farrell, who finished with a team-high 18 points and four rebounds, limited University of Maryland-bound Diamond Miller to a 2-for-9 showing from the field and just four points in the first half. 
Two free throws by junior swing Makayla Andrews evened the score at 39-39 with 6:58 left to play in the game, but a Miller 3-pointer gave Franklin a five-point lead, 44-39, with 6:01 remaining. 
Andrews ended her season scoring 11 points with nine rebounds and three blocked shots. 
Senior guard Lauren Lithgow, who finished with 11 points and two rebounds, then converted a steal into a transition basket to pull St. Rose within one, 44-43, but that’s as close as St. Rose would get as Franklin eventually put the game away at the foul line, going 6-for-6 over the closing 3:44 to maintain the lead. 
St. Rose completed the season with a perfect 14-0 record in the arduous A Central of the Shore Conference and captured its second straight Non-Public A state title. Since 2012, St. Rose has advanced to the TOC five times, including four semifinals and one final appearance. 
Franklin (34-0) went on to defeat No. 2 Saddle River in the TOC championship to finish undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state and 12th nationally. The Warriors became the first undefeated TOC champion since Shabazz in 2006. 
St. Rose closed out the season ranked fourth in the state. 
No. 2 Saddle River 76, No. 3 Manchester 63
Manchester Township, making its first appearance in the Tournament of Champions semifinals in program history, maybe let the jitters get to them early, as Saddle River bolted out to a 15-2 opening-quarter lead. The Hawks eventually calmed their nerves and were able to close the gap to 21-17 by the end of the first quarter. 
Sophomore Destiny Adams’s driving layup pulled the Hawks to within two, 26-24, midway through the second quarter, but Saddle River Day answered with a 10-1 run to push the lead back to 36-25 before settling for a 36-27 lead at the half. 
Senior forward Dakota Adams’s jumper with 3:41 left in the third quarter capped a 9-2 to start to the quarter and Manchester was within two, 38-36. 
But once again, the Rebels responded with a run of their own, this one a 12-2 sequence that put them up by 10 points, 48-38.
Duke-bound senior Jaida Patrick, who had a game-high 24 points, sank two free throw to give the Rebels their largest advantage of the game, 56-41, eight seconds into the fourth quarter. The Hawks weren’t through though, as they countered with 9-0 run of their own to pull within six, 58-52, however, that would be as close as they would get. 
West Virginia-bound Leilani Correa topped the Hawks with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks to lead four players in double figures. Strapped with foul trouble, Destiny Adams still managed to score 14 points with five rebounds, three assists and two steals, while junior guard Kemari Reynolds added 13 points and five boards. Dakota Adams chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. 
Manchester’s season was not only memorable, but historic. The Hawks (32-3), who ended the season ranked third in the state, captured the program’s first-ever Shore Conference Tournament championship. They then won their first NJSIAA Group 2 title before picking up their first-ever TOC victory when they rolled past Mainland in the first round.