ABSECON — New Spartans coach Tim Whitworth got his first introduction to the Holy Spirit vs. Atlantic City rivalry on Monday night, and it’s safe to say he’s not eager to see the Vikings come to town again anytime soon.

Atlantic City jumped out to a 21-6 lead after one quarter, led 33-19 at half and after a bumpy third quarter cruised to a 61-40 victory over a young Spartans team that features just a pair of seniors in Jules Lynch and Melody Pugliese.

“I told (Athletic Director) Steve Normane, ‘what kind of schedule are you giving us to start the season?'” said Whitworth, a former professional player in Europe. “That’s a really good team, they get up and down, but I think we found something we can take with us from this game. I’m certainly encouraged. There are good parts we’ll take with us.”

Holy Spirit (0-2) came out strong in the third quarter as Pugliese scored on the inside then Lynch added five straight points as the Spartans shaved the deficit down to 38-31, but with 2:28 left in the third Atlantic City point guard Sanai Garrison-Macon answered with a traditional 3-point play that pushed the lead to 43-31, and the Spartans only got to within nine points once more in the game.

Atlantic City (2-0) struggled with turnovers throughout the game, but got enough done with its veteran leaders like Alex Fader, Ciani Redd-Howard and Madison Brestle, and got some good contributions from Naysha Suarez, Sasha Lemons and Quanirah Cherry-Montague to keep the Spartans at bay.

Fader and Suarez each contributed 12 points, Brestle added eight, Redd-Howard scored seven and Cherry-Montague — a 6-foot freshman — chipped in with five points and five blocked shots. Garrison-Macon added nine points, all in the first half, before suffering an injury.

“We had to just gather ourselves and find a way to settle down and take over the game,” said Redd-Howard, a senior forward. “It was a little difficult at first, but once the last three minutes came we finally were able to shut them down and we realized this is our game and they weren’t going to come back.”

Good guard play: Atlantic City, especially in the first half, relied on its guards to provide most of the scoring and Brestle and Garrison-Macon came through, combining for 14 of the Vikings’ 33 points.

“Our guards are really mind-blowing right now. I didn’t know it would be like that because this is only our second game, but they came out and gave us points two games in a row. Our lineup will continue to change, so teams better be ready,” Redd-Howard said. “We just have to finish layups and be able to keep the ball. If we finish layups and take care of the ball we’ll be able to beat teams.”

Holy Spirit also saw some good play from its young guards, as Maggie Cella, Fran Florio and Kira Murray handled the ball well and helped the Spartans break Atlantic City’s pressure defense. Coach Whitworth said he liked the aggressiveness he saw from his underclassmen in taking the ball to the basket, and getting the ball inside to junior Sophia Pasquale, who finished with 10 points.

“Part of our game plan going in tonight was, hey, let’s try and push the pace ourselves, also,” he said. “I’ve been saying it since Day One, the easiest shot in the game is an open layup in transition, so let’s get out and try to go and get some easy ones. You want to grind it out in the half court, but it’s easier to get out in transition and get an easy layup.”

When the calendar turns to January, Whitworth said he’ll be relying on Lynch and Pugliese — the only two seniors on the roster — to lead the way.

“They are our seniors and co-captains and have been our leaders. The two of them are both great leaders, they are great kids, and we have a young roster so they’ll really help us,” Whitworth said. “Our freshmen and sophomores who are playing a lot of minutes, they’re going to help them as we go on through this season.”

Unfamiliar territory: As a first-year coach, Whitworth said he’s unfamiliar with the Cape-Atlantic League, and wasn’t shy about reaching out to some of his coaching brethren for some intel.

“I’m hoping I can make some friends here in the coaching world and somebody can help me out. While I’ve seen a couple games, a lot of this is new to me,” he said. “Fortunately, I was able to find out a little bit of information about Atlantic City. Right now, I told the girls it’s more about us until we start to see more of the other teams. But, like I said, any other coaches out there who want to help me out, I’ll give you my phone number.”

What’s next: Holy Spirit takes on Wildwood Catholic at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 26 at the Boardwalk Classic at Wildwood Convention Center. Atlantic City travels to Bridgeton on Jan. 2 at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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