BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — For most of its Cape-Atlantic League Tournament first-round playoff game against Holy Spirit, the St. Augustine Prep boys basketball team didn’t play like three-time defending champions.
But the Hermits flashed their championship form when they needed it most, beating scrappy Holy Spirit 54-42 Friday night to advance to the semifinals.
Marlon Hargis scored 23 points, and Travis Stoll, a former Spartan, added 14 as the third-seeded Hermits pulled away early in the fourth quarter.
“We won a game by double digits that we didn’t play well,” St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said. “We know that. You have to give (Holy Spirit) a lot of credit. They accomplished their game plan better than we accomplished ours. But when push came to shove, when they really had to, our kids made the right seven or eight plays down the stretch.”
St. Augustine will next face second-seeded Wildwood Catholic in the semifinal round Thursday at Absegami High School. Wildwood Catholic advanced with a 63-51 win over Millville on Friday.
“Survive and advance,” Rodio said. “We’re playing Thursday night against somebody, whoever it is, and we’ll put in another game plan for that and do what we’ve got to do.”
St. Augustine (19-5) took some control over a tight game with a 12-3 run bridging the third and fourth quarters. Hargis scored six points in the run, and Charles Solomon drove for a slam, his only points of the game, off a pass from Stoll to give the Hermits a seven-point lead.
“It was a close game, so we had to turn it on,” said Hargis, a senior from Mays Landing. “On the defensive end, we took the first punch instead of being aggressive. It wasn’t pretty, but in the playoffs it doesn’t matter if it’s pretty. You just want to get the win.”
“I still have a bunch of friends on that team, so there’s always a bunch of trash talking,” said Stoll, a senior from Absecon. “But there’s nothing better than a good high school basketball game, so we just try to keep our composure and get the win.”
Sam Lamonaca led sixth-seeded Holy Spirit (13-11) with 13 points, and fellow senior Drew Gallagher scored 10, including a buzzer-beating 40-foot shot at the end of the first half.
“We lost to them by 30 earlier in the year,” Lamonaca said. “We just came out and gave everything we’ve got. It felt real good when Drew made that crazy shot at the half. But they’re a bigger team than us, and they just wore us out.”
Holy Spirit still has more basketball left in the season. The Spartans will host Immaculata in a Non-Public South B first-round game Feb. 27.
On Friday, Kevin Foreman and Jordyn Kendrick hit early 3-point shots for St. Augustine. Lamonaca scored six first-quarter points for the Spartans, and Drew Gallagher’s long 3-point shot gave Spirit a 13-8 lead late in the quarter.
But Hargis responded with two quick buckets, including a put-back, to pull the Hermits to within a point after one quarter.
St. Augustine continued a 10-0 run into the second quarter, but Lamonaca kept the Spartans in the game with a couple slick drives to the basket, and brother Jake Lamonaca hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 20.
Solomon and Hargis worked inside for Prep baskets before Gallagher beat the halftime buzzer with a 40-foot heave — right in front of Rodio — to tie the game at 25 at the break.
The Spartans used that momentum in the third quarter, building a four-point lead on shots by Sam Lamonaca and Joe Marczyk. Hargis and Kendrick responded with 3-pointers before Jake Lamonaca scored on a nice feed from his brother and converted the foul shot. Holy Spirit trailed by one after three quarters.
Holy Spirit 13 12 8 9 – 42
St. Augustine 12 13 9 20 – 54
H.S.—S. Lamonaca 13, Gallagher 10, J. Lamonaca 8, Marczyk 4, Kalinowski 3, Miller 2, Gerena 2.
S.A.— Hargis 23, Stoll 14, Kendrick 9, Foreman 5, Solomon 2, Ota 1.
3-point shots—Holy Spirit, Gallagher (3), J. Lamonaca (2), S. Lamonaca. St. Augustine, Kendrick (2), Foreman, Hargis.
Records—Holy Spirit 13-11; St. Augustine 19-5.