Spirit girls roll in CAL first round

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ABSECON - The Holy Spirit Lady Spartans basketball team got a scare last Wednesday when Val Garafolo and Summer Crilley were in a car accident. Fortunately, they were both all right with some minor bumps and bruises.

The incident brought a tight knit team even closer together, they said. It was apparent as they went out and completely dominated the Millville Lady Thunderbolts 68-40 on Friday night, Feb. 15, in the first round of the Cape-Atlantic League Playoffs in Absecon.

Crilley scored 24 points, including 12-for-13 from the free throw line. Seniors Annie Wenz (11 points 13 rebounds) and Gina Lewis (13 points, 15 boards, and 5 blocks) played their best overall game of the season. Garafolo chipped in with six points and four steals. That offset a monster performance by Ashli Weems, who grabbed 22 rebounds but only scored five markers.

“There’s no way to stop her (Weems) but between Gina and I we can do a lot of things,” said Wenz. “When Summer has a game like this, it makes our job easier inside.”

Millville (15-8) scored the first basket of the game when Lexi Bruno scored on a short jumper. Spirit (17-6) then reeled off the next 15 points to take a lead they would never relinquish. Millville came out for the second stanza and closed the lead to 16-13, when Crilley took over. As Holy Spirit went on an 11-2 run, she scored nine of those points and they took a 35-20 lead into the locker room.

“It’s all about confidence,” the junior guard said. “We were able to force them into stuff they didn’t want to do and that gave us opportunities.”

Bruno, one of the most dynamic guards in the CAL, scored 11 points in the first half but finished with just two more points after that. She gamely tried to play on a hip flexor injury that she sustained against OLMA last week. Sophomore guard Audrey Wilson was assigned to Bruno and did a nice job. She also added five points to the Lady Spartans’ total.

“That was a key for us tonight,” said head coach Dennis Smith. “Audrey has worked hard in practice and she’s a tough defender. It freed Garafolo and Crilley up to focus on offense. I thought this was Gina’s best game of the season as well. Our defense really stepped up and we were able to get the game to the way we wanted it. I’m very pleased but we can’t relax with some tough games still coming up.”

Ocean City, Cedar Creek and Sacred Heart also advanced to the CAL semifinal round as expected, but based on Friday night’s play, overlooking the Lady Spartans could be a mistake.

FOUL SHOTS: Spirit shot 21-for-28 from the charity stripe for the game. The CAL semifinals are as scheduled, with all games at St. Augustine Prep on Wednesday, Feb. 20:

Holy Spirit vs. Cedar Creek at 5 p.m.; Ocean City vs., Sacred Heart at 7 p.m.

Holy Spirit will have to try to stop Kristine Miller and the outside shooting of the Lady Pirates, while the other game is a re-match from last year’s CAL Final won by the Lady Lions. It features a Julia Duggan vs. Kennedy Johnson matchup.

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