By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — Just a week into the 2017-2018 season, the Holy Spirit girls basketball team is nowhere near a finished product, but new head coach Jackie Siscone will take a 3-0 start as the Spartans start to iron out some of the wrinkles in their game.
Holy Spirit had stretches Thursday afternoon when it played very well, and others when it didn’t, but the Spartans did enough to hold off an Oakcrest comeback attempt to beat the Falcons, 53-38, and head into Christmas with an undefeated record. The Spartans got a big game from junior point guard Paige Sofield, who finished with a game-high 17 points to go with a handful of assists and steals.
“We’re very inconsistent. That’s been our problem so far, we’ll have stretches where we look amazing and stretches where it looks like we’ve never played basketball before. That’s been the struggle, but we knew there were going to be some growing pains. We have some kids out there who have very little varsity experience. Paige is our point guard, and she got some varsity time last year but not a significant amount, and we’re asking a lot of her. She’s doing a solid job, but there’s a learning curve,” said Siscone, who was an outstanding prep player at Hammonton High School and who most recently was an assistant coach under Jason Vander Ryk at ACIT before taking over the Spartans this year after Dennis Smith stepped down. “It’s just the silly foul trouble, not knowing what defense we’re in. We have to be a little bit more patient offensively. Those are things we’re working on every day. But, hey, we’re 3-0 and I’ll take that. Hopefully at some point they’ll start to gel as a group, because I don’t think we have completely gelled yet as a team.”
Holy Spirit (3-0, 2-0 Cape-Atlantic League National Conference) jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game and seemed firmly in control after Jules Lynch nailed a pair of 3-pointers late in the second quarter to push the lead to 19-6.
“Jules can shoot the ball. When she’s on, she’s on,” Siscone said. “There’s potential in a lot of these girls, but we have to be ready. Every night is going to be a dogfight.”
But Oakcrest (1-2, 0-2) began to find its stroke from long range, and the Falcons pulled to within 33-26 after 3-pointers from Nephtalie Dorce and Kiki Hinton. Another three from Hinton to start the fourth quarter got the Falcons to within 36-29, but a 13-2 run by the Spartans pushed the lead to 51-33 with 2:44 left and put the game out of reach. Lynch finished with 12 points while Zhyana Young and Sophia Pasquale combined for 13 more. Hinton led Oakcrest with 12 points on four 3-pointers, and Ioyonia Alves chipped in with 10.
Siscone said she will be preaching defense until she gives the squad off for Christmas eve and Christmas day, and hopes to see a much better effort against Seneca next Wednesday.
“We have to be better defensively. We have a lot of defensive lapses, and we don’t box out,” she said. “Offensively, I know things will come together because there are so many skilled offensive players on this team. Now, it’s just a matter of defensively and boxing out. And I’m not happy with the rebounding. I told them to be prepared to not even shoot the ball next practice.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays