Atlantic City, Holy Spirit boys meet again Tuesday in CAL playoff semifinal

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There is plenty at stake Tuesday night at 7 p.m. when the Atlantic City High School and Holy Spirit High School boys basketball teams renew their heated rivalry in a Cape-Atlantic League Tournament semifinal game at Hammonton High School.

The winner of Tuesday’s game gets a berth in the CAL championship game on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

And there are bragging rights at stake. Because of the proximity of the schools and the shared sending districts, many of these athletes have grown up playing against or with each other on neighborhood playgrounds or in local leagues.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Atlantic City’s Jah-leem Montague said of the rematch with Holy Spirit. “It should be a fun game.”

Atlantic City, the defending CAL champion and Group IV state champion, has won 29 straight games against Cape-Atlantic League opponents. The Vikings (21-1) won two previous close games against Holy Spirit this season, most recently a 54-47 victory on Feb. 12 that wasn’t decided until the final minute.

Holy Spirit (15-8) reached the semifinal round with a 51-45 win over Wildwood Catholic on Friday.

The top-ranked Vikings are big and athletic, and they are one of the best defensive teams in the state, but they sometimes struggle shooting the ball. Holy Spirit is a very talented team led by top scorer and playmaker Paul Moore, as well as rangy forward Junior Santiel and valuable 6-2 sophomore John Middleton.

Both Atlantic City and Holy Spirit are coming off appearances at the Cherry Hill East Invitational last weekend. Atlantic City used its full-court, man-to-man pressure to force 41 turnovers in a 58-48 win over fifth-ranked Paulsboro. Holy Spirit lost to Shawnee, 52-43.

In the other CAL semifinal at 5 p.m. Tuesday, also at Hammonton, Middle Township (18-4) will play St. Augustine Prep (20-4) for the third time this season in a rematch from last year’s league semifinals.

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