By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — The next time the St. Augustine Prep basketball team practices, Hermits players can expect a few extra wind sprints after turning the ball over 21 times against Middle Township in the opening game of the Seagull Classic, which makes its return to Holy Spirit High School this winter after a nearly two-decade hiatus.
The turnovers were the bad news. The good news is, the Hermits did enough to get past a scrappy Panthers team, 55-49, to extend their winning streak to four games following a 64-55 loss to Atlantic City a few days before Christmas. The win over Middle comes on the heels of a successful Christmas break trip to San Diego, where the Hermits went 3-0 and Marlon Hargis was named MVP of the tournament the Hermits competed in against three teams from California.
“Jet-lag wasn’t a problem, it was just a matter of getting back to practice, getting back into it and getting ready for the next game. We just had careless mistakes. We weren’t playing smart basketball, and kept turning the ball over. We’re going to have to work on some things before the next game,” Hargis said. “We have to get back to practice. Like I said, we have a lot of things we have to work on. We’re going to listen to coach (Paul) Rodio, and just prepare for the next game. That’s all we can really do.”
“I think that trip really brought our team together, if anything. It’s tough not playing for a little stretch, and having a 10:30 a.m. game, but we have to do better than that. It’s a little tough, but you just have to play through it. There’s no reason that should stop us, we just have to play harder,” said St. Augustine guard Cole Vanderslice. The game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but the storm postponed it until Saturday morning.
The Hermits (6-1) got off to a little bit of a slow start, but still held a 16-12 lead after one quarter, and limited Middle to just five points in the second to take a 27-17 lead into halftime. But the Panthers (4-3) came out hot in the third quarter, and took a 31-30 lead on consecutive baskets by Mack Selby and DaSean Lopez. But St. Augustine responded with four straight points to take a 34-33 lead, and never surrendered it. Vanderslice nailed a big 3-pointer to give the Hermits a 43-37 lead with five minutes to go, and Middle couldn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way.
“Everyone just tells me to stay confident and keep shooting. If they get me the ball, they want me to shoot, so I’m just going to do my job,” Vanderslice said. “They are very athletic and a very good team. I know coach (Anthony) Farmer personally. He’s a great coach and they came out and played well, so luckily we got a win. We need to get on a roll. We have Holy Spirit on Tuesday, so we’re going to have to come out harder in the first quarter.”
Hargis, Charles Solomon and Vanderslice all finished in double figures, with 15, 13 and 11 points, respectively, and Solomon added nine rebounds. Selby led Middle with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Jalen Freeman and Coley Holton each added 10 points.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays