By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
ABSECON — Don’t tell the Spartans they are too young to win now.
Sophomore Zhyana Young’s willingness to do anything and everything for her team, and freshman Ciani Redd-Howard’s composure beyond her years are just two of the reasons why the Holy Spirit girls basketball team is still playing this time of the year.
The No. 4 Spartans showed their patience and unselfishness in a gritty 35-26 win over No. 5 Moorestown Friends Friday night in the Non-Public B South state playoffs.
Holy Spirit (19-8) will play March 6 at No. 1 Patrick School, which defeated No. 8 Roselle Catholic, 46-27, on Friday.
“We have been saying all year that these girls have the ability to do something special,” Holy Spirit coach Dennis Smith said. “We have been saying it from Day One, like back in summer league. We have been saying these girls can do something special because of the blend that they have; because of their athleticism, poise and other things they have going for them. If they do all the little things and do all the right things, they will be in position to win games that are big.”
“We weren’t going home tonight,” said Young, who scored a game-high 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “We are not ready to go home yet. We are playing Monday.”
The Spartans turned away the Foxes by sharing the ball, attacking the glass and by playing hard-nosed defense, especially in the fourth quarter. Moorestown Friends’ Camille Aguilar hit a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game. It was the last time the Foxes scored.
Offensively, the Spartans also struggled in the fourth quarter, especially from the charity stripe, where they went 1-for-7 in the waning minutes. However, they did just enough early in the third quarter and early in the fourth to get the best of the Foxes.
Young scored six points in the fourth quarter, and Redd-Howard made two 3-pointers in the third quarter. Redd-Howard finished with eight points, matching teammate Ariyanna Wilkes.
One of Red-Howard’s three-pointers gave the Spartans a 25-19 lead with 4:09 left in the third. She also hit one earlier to open the second half.
“When I hit those threes, I was excited because they weren’t dropping in the first half,” Redd-Howard said.
Moorestown Friends’ Charlotte Stern made it a four-point game late in the third quarter and it that was as close as the Foxes got the rest of the game.
Holy Spirit’s Regina Lamcken scored on an assist from Wilkes at the end of the third, and Wilkes added two free throws to open the scoring in the fourth to give the Spartans a 29-21 lead. Holy Spirit outscored Moorestown Friends, 8-5, in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win.
“We did all the little things except hitting our foul shots at the end,” Smith said. “That’s one of the things we do, that we stress at practice. Do the little things. When you do the little things the big things will take care of themselves, as you see tonight by winning and getting to the semis.”
“This win was a tough win,” Redd-Howard said. “They played us really well. On Monday we have to be focused.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO