FAITH MASONIUS PUTTING FINISHING TOUCHES ON BRILLIANT HIGH SCHOOL CAREER
By Mike Ready
MANASQUAN – Prior to the Warriors’ Monday night Central Jersey Group II first-round game, Manasquan’s Faith Masonius was presented the Kerwin Award trophy as the top Shore Conference girls basketball player for the 2018-19 season.
Rest assured, this will be the first of many awards that will come the star forward’s way this season as she attempts to lead the Warriors to the program’s first-ever back-to-back Tournament of Champions titles in her fourth and final year as a starter at Manasquan.
She’s already been selected to represent the south squad in the New Jersey North/South All-Star game along with teammate Lola Mullaney.
The University of Maryland-bound Masonius was a star at St. Catherine’s Elementary School in Spring Lake and played AAU ball for the Jersey Shore Wildcats, now the NJ Belles, where she excelled under her mother, head coach Ellen Clark Masonius, on both teams before bursting on the scene at Manasquan High School in the 2015-16 season as a lanky 6-foot-1 front-court stud.
“We were familiar with her having two of her older sisters (Ellie and Addie) play for me,” said Manasquan head coach Lisa Kukoda. “There was a lot of talk about Faith prior to her high school years just that she was an all-around great kid and great leader who had a poise about her that was very mature for her age and that definitely proved true when she came in.”
“It was a great year for her to come in,” Kukoda said. “Her older sister Addie and her cousin Stella (Clark), a former first-team All-Shore selection now starting at Northeastern University, were both on the team. Faith has a personality that allows her to get along with a lot of different types of people and she’s very laid back, kind of unassuming. She understood as a freshman that there were older girls on the team that were leaders so she kind of just let things play out her freshman year but still had her moments of leadership.”
In Manasquan’s loss to Saint John Vianney in the Shore Conference Tournament final, she scored 17 points and pulled down seven boards before becoming a household name in New Jersey girls basketball circles after she scored 27 points along with nine rebounds, two blocked shots and an assist in a seven-point loss to the Lancers in the Tournament of Champions final.
“I think even earlier in her sophomore season she had a few breakout moments for us – some big shots and big plays.” said Kukoda. “I think though that was really the moment in the T.O.C. final on a really big stage that she showcased what she could really do.”
Entering her sophomore campaign she was no longer an unknown freshman but a rising star that demanded attention in the form of double teams and collapsing defenses.
“People realized there was a buzz about her after her freshman year and rightfully so,” said Kukoda. “I think people started to try to figure out how to defend her but whether it was inside or outside she was a difficult matchup for a lot of teams.”
Through it all she still put up solid numbers and was named second-team All-Shore and third-team All-State after averaging 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals. In the Tournament of Champions final that year, Masonius tied the game, 48-48, with under a minute to go before Franklin’s Kennedy Schenck broke their hearts with a buzzer beater in a 50-48 loss. In defeat, Masonius scored nine points with eight boards, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
“Faith’s not affected by game situations – the pressure of a situation,” said Kudoda of Masonius’s knack for stepping up in crunch time. “I think she plays the same way no matter what’s going on the court. She always has that level head about her and that’s obviously a strength of hers in big moments like that.”
Masonius came into her own her junior year when she and Dara Mabrey – now at Virginia Tech where she’s a candidate for the ACC Freshman of the Year – led the Warriors to the Tournament of Champions title as the No. 1 team in New Jersey, and the Shore Conference Tournament championship on the way to winning 31 games.
After scoring at an 18.8 clip while averaging 11 rebounds, four assists and 2.6 steals per game, she was selected first-team All-State and first-team All-Shore. She posted 23 double-doubles and in the Warriors’ T.O.C. semifinal win, Masonius dominated with 26 points and 20 boards. In the first round of the CJGII tournament she pulled off an unheard of quadruple-double recording 15 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and 10 steals.
“Her junior year she really developed into a leader both on and off the court,” Kukoda said. “She acquired more of a demanding presence in all areas of the game. She impacted the game offensively, defensively, rebounding – she turned it up a notch last year.”
It was in January of her junior year that Masonius committed to the Terrapins.
This season, in one of the most gallant efforts in Shore Conference Tournament history, Masonius almost single-handedly willed her team to a win as she played like a girl possessed in the Warriors’ semifinal loss to Saint John Vianney.
Down 48-40 with just under three minutes to play, Masonius scored nine points to pull the Warriors within 53-51 with 0.3 seconds remaining. But her attempted tip-in on an inbound pass under the basket bounced off the front of the rim as she was whistled for an offensive foul.
She finished with 33 points hitting 13-of-18 shots from the floor, including three three-pointers along with 12 rebounds and five assists. She’s averaging 19.8 points, 11.4 boards, 3.9 assists and 2.6 steals in an MVP-like season so far and had 26 points in the Warriors’ first-round 90-35 win versus Metuchen.
“Her performance kind of encompasses everything that she is,” said Kukoda of Masonius’s monster game in the SCT semifinals. “She just gave everything she had. She had this moment where she had this drive in her and took over the game trying to reach her goals – obviously she performed really well in that game.”
In Manasquan’s 90-35 first-round win over Metuchen in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II tournament, Masonius continued her torrid play dropping 26 points in the victory. Then in the semifinals, Masonius became the fourth player in Manasquan history to score 2,000 career points with a 22-point performance as the Warriors easily dispensed of Voorhees, 64-26.
Masonius, however, is the only Manasquan player to have recorded at least 1,000 rebounds while scoring 2,000 points. She reached the 2,000 career-point milestone on one of her signature left-handed reverse layups early in the third quarter.
After leading the Warriors to their sixth consecutive sectional title in their 60-38 win over Rumson-Fair Haven where she came up three assists shy of a triple-double with 23 points, 13 boards and seven assists, Masonius’s high school career came to an abrupt halt in the Group II semifinal.
She needed to be helped off the court in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury and never returned. Manchester ultimately put an end to Masonius’s career by beating the Warriors, 64-48, which in turn eliminated them from the state playoffs.
It was definitely not the way Masonius wanted to go out and words could not express the sadness of the moment seeing her on the bench helpless with an ice pack strapped around her knee in one of the biggest games of her career.