Spirit girls off and running in state playoffs
ABSECON — The Holy Spirit girls basketball team hadn't played a game in nearly a week since losing in the semifinals of the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament, but even though the Spartans were a bit rusty they still had plenty of firepower to dispatch Mater Dei in the opening round of the Non-Public B South playoffs.
The fourth-seeded Spartans got nine points from Zhyana Young and eight from Ayanna Jones, built a 20-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 38-23 win over the No. 13 Seraphs. Holy Spirit hosts fifth-seeded Moorestown Friends on Friday at 6 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
"We're just trying to run offense and work as a team, not individually. If we run it as a team, we know we can win," said junior forward Regina Lamcken, who didn't score many points but played well passing the ball out of the post along with Young. "The lead in the beginning of the game was nice. That's good for us because we could just keep building. It's better than being behind and having to keep working our way back."
It's much more difficult for non-public schools to schedule games between the CAL Tournament and the state playoffs, Holy Spirit coach Dennis Smith said. He believes the layoff between games may have contributed to a lack of excitement surrounding the game.
"Intensity is one of the things we need to work on. When you get knocked out in the semis (of the CAL), you're off for a week when you are a non-public school. It's hard for us to say (to another non-public school), 'hey, can you save a game for us for Saturday in case we lose in the semis.' So, we haven't played since last Thursday. It's not an excuse, but it's hard to get that energy up," Smith said. "Before the game started, this place was dead. There was no juice, no anything in the building, and that was frustrating for me. Our girls play much better in an atmosphere that has some juice to it. So, we need to bring the intensity (Friday night). We need to pressure teams and force mistakes. We tried to do that a little bit, but not as much as I would like to."
Defensively, Holy Spirit (18-8) was on point, allowing the Seraphs (14-12) just three points in the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Jones gave the Spartans a 6-0 lead early on, and a traditional three-point play by Ariyanna Wilkes pushed the lead to 11-3 heading into the second quarter. Spirit extended the lead to 20-7 on a jumper by Wilkes and a putback by Lamcken, and early in the third quarter Jones and Ciani Redd-Howard nailed back-to-back 3-pointers as the advantage swelled to 26-7.
"They did what they needed to do on the blocks," Smith said of Lamcken and Young. "I'd like to see 'Z' finish a little more, especially early in the game. Just to get her some more confidence. She had nine points tonight, but could have had 19 if she had finished. She was a little strong to the basket. But I think as we start to see better competition, we will rise to that competition."
Redd-Howard and Wilkes each finished with seven points to add to a well-balanced scoring sheet for the Spartans.
"Each round we're going to have to work harder and harder," Lamcken said. "In tomorrow's practice we're going to have to work harder on everything coach has been saying, running offense and playing together as a team."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays