By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City girls basketball team played pressure defense throughout and trailed Cedar Creek by just four points at halftime on Friday night at the Martin Luther King Jr. School Complex. But the Vikings simply had no answer for Pirates junior forward Trina Deveney.
Deveney had a huge game, scoring 17 points in the first half and finishing with 28 to lead Cedar Creek to a 63-52 victory — a win that got the Pirates back to .500 at 3-3. They’ll have a quick turnaround, as they take on Wildwood on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the fourth of five games at ACIT’s Kiss Cancer Goodbye event. Other games at the Glory Days Magazine-sponsored event include Cumberland vs. St. Joseph at noon, Bridgeton vs. Hammonton at 1:30 p.m., Oakcrest vs. Winslow at 3, and Atlantic Christian vs. ACIT in the finale at 6.
“We were just trying to get the ball movement we wanted. Really, we just try to work the ball and avoid turnovers. I was exhausted, but just had to push through,” Deveney said. “I feel like I can control the ball more this year.”
Deveney, Jazzy Duverglas and Sarah Tomasello — the three starters with the most varsity experience — did a good enough job handling the ball against Atlantic City’s constant pressure defense to allow the Pirates to maintain their lead throughout the second half. The Vikings climbed to within 42-36 early in the fourth quarter when Kadinah Harris converted a steal into a layup, and later five straight points from Madison Brestle cut into Cedar Creek’s lead again.
“We’ve been struggling with turnovers lately and controlling the ball, so today we had to focus on that. We knew they were going to press us. They pressed us the entire game, and when we started getting tired, we started making mistakes,” said Duverglas, who finished with 14 points, including 11 in the second half. “We had an eight-point lead that got cut to four by halftime, and it was back-and-forth the rest of the game.”
Atlantic City (3-3) got to within 58-50 on a 3-pointer from Megan Crawford and a pair of free throws by Qeiajae Canty, but the Pirates were able to hit their free throws in the final minute to seal the win. They could have sealed it much earlier, but some hasty offensive possessions gave the ball back to Atlantic City on several occasions in the final three minutes.
“Our guards are all sophomores and freshmen, so things like that are going to happen. Every day we work on those kinds of things — time and situation — what to do when we are winning,” said first-year coach Jess Sartorio, who is taking over for Fran Raph. “Because of the inexperience we have at our guard positions, we wanted Jazzy to be that confident person, until the other girls develop that confidence in themselves. Tonight, I saw confidence in all of them — Jazzy, mostly, but the other girls had to handle the ball at times also.”
Sartorio sang Deveney’s praises after the game, and said she hopes a game like this can be a springboard to more consistently dominating performances.
“I’ve been telling her, since I started working with her, that she has the potential to be a monster in the low post. Some days she does it, and some days she doesn’t,” Sartorio said. “I’m happy she’s still just a junior, that’s for sure. If she can play like this every game and be confident and strong — she doesn’t realize how strong she is and doesn’t realize the potential she has.”
“Me and her work so well together,” Duverglas added. “I know I can count on her all the time, and our chemistry has just grown throughout the years.”
Cedar Creek caught Atlantic City at the right time, as star transfers Tahirah Howard (ACIT) and Ciani Redd-Howard (Holy Spirit) become eligible to play on Monday, so the Vikings will have a much different look the second half of the season. The Pirates hope two straight wins is the start of something good, and it will have to be if they hope to make the state playoffs. They still have nine games left in January to decide their fate.
“This win gives us a little bit of confidence. Against Mainland and Ocean City we were a little bit shaky, but coming back to beat Atlantic City was good — especially before they get their transfers eligible,” Duverglas said. “Tomorrow we have Wildwood, and I think we’ll have good energy going into that game.
“We, unfortunately, didn’t play over the break and have had some cancellations due to weather, so we’ve only played six games. We had three games in December, then to come back (after the break) and get beaten pretty badly by Mainland — we had a good win the other day (against Cumberland) and that confidence, hopefully, will continue to build,” Sartorio said. “We have five games in seven days, so they don’t have a choice but to play hard. I guess it’s better, because if they played badly or if I wanted to critique something, we don’t have practice.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays