By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — Whatever Holy Spirit senior guard Drew Gallagher had for lunch, he couldn’t keep it down as a bout of illness plagued him during the finale of the Seagull Classic. But Gallagher is a gamer, and even if he had to get sick 10 times during the Spartans’ matchup against Pleasantville, it would have been worth it to give his teammates and coach Jamie Gillespie a victory as the once popular high school basketball tournament was reborn in the Spartans’ home gymnasium this weekend after a nearly two-decades-long hiatus.
A marathon weekend of boys and girls basketball came to a close Sunday night, and Gallagher led an inspired comeback, as the Spartans rallied for a 77-67 victory over a team that had beaten them nine days earlier at the Score at the Shore tournament at Southern Regional. Gallagher finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds, three 3-pointers and five steals.
“He’s a tough, determined kid who never quits. He wasn’t coming out of that game for anything tonight,” said Holy Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie.
“I don’t think we played a good first half at all, so when we came into the locker room (at halftime), we knew we had to bounce back. It was a dogfight. Once we got on a roll, we were definitely flowing. They couldn’t take us out of that flow, and we just kept going,” Gallagher said. “I feel like they out-hustled us in the first half, but in the second half we picked it up and we knew we had to hustle more, because they were playing harder than us in the first half.”
Pleasantville (5-2) jumped out to a 10-1 lead to start the game, but Holy Spirit (5-2) hung tough and cut the lead down to 23-20 late in the second quarter and trailed just 33-28 at halftime.
“We really turned it up. I don’t know what it was. We had the confidence we could do it, we just never really put it together, but in the second half we did. I knew we were going to come back. I have so much faith in my teammates,” said Sam Lamonaca, who finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four steals. “Everyone feels pressure, but the loss last time we played them was big. We felt like we should have beaten them.”
“As the host team, the last thing you want to do is walk out of here as a losing team. I sure as heck didn’t want to come home a loser tonight. We came back and tied it, then went down by 11, 51-39, and it would have been easy for us to cave because we had already exhausted so much energy to get back into the game, so I give my kids a lot of credit. They kept fighting and fighting, and found a way to gut one out,” Gillespie said. “The game last week, we were up by 12, and the next thing you know, you blink and we were down by six. So, it was a little bit of the opposite tonight. I told the kids at halftime that I felt exactly the opposite of the way I did at Southern. We were up 12 in the first half, went into halftime up six, and I felt we out-played them. Today, I feel like they completely out-played us in the first half, but we were only down by five. As bad as we played, we were only down five, so we were fortunate to be in that spot.”
Holy Spirit took a 34-33 lead in the third quarter on a three-point play from Lamonica and three free throws from Gallagher and Reece Miller, but just as quickly Pleasantville raced back out to a 51-39 lead.
“They are very athletic and have multiple kids who can score 15 or 20 points a night, as evidenced by the box score the last time we played them, and tonight,” said Gillespie, who stuck with his zone defense despite the Greyhounds making several extended runs. “Valeus is a nice player, they have Divine Anderson and Sahmir Jones, so they have a lot of nice pieces. So, for us, that’s a nice win tonight.”
“We did sit in a packed-in zone, and I think that really slowed them down. It gave us energy, and helped us in the long run,” Lamonaca said. “It feels so good to play in front of packed crowds. All these great games, that’s what brings in the crowds.”
Spirit started gaining some momentum at the close of the third quarter, and an inside bucket by Joe Marczyk gave the Spartans a 10-point lead, 72-62, with 2:40 remaining. Shawn Vaughan hit 1-of-2 free throws and Jacob Valeus put back a missed shot to pull Pleasantville within 72-66, but the Spartans were able to hang on in the final 1:43.
“This was huge. This weekend was great, watching all these great games here, and also, we lost to them at the tournament during the Christmas break, so we knew it was big to come back today and beat them,” Gallagher said. “This tournament has a great tradition, so it was great to bring it back. There were some great games here, some big crowds. It was just great high school basketball for everybody to watch.”
“It was a fantastic weekend of basketball, for the community, for all the teams involved, for our school. With the history of the Seagull Classic, it really was a great, great weekend of high school basketball. We had some terrific environments, great teams, great coaches — I mean, what else could you want?” Gillespie said. “It’s year one, and we’ll learn from some things and we’ll grow as we move along. Johnny Rodio and Steve Selby did a terrific job in partnering with us and running this event, and it turned out to be a great weekend of basketball.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays