By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — Sometimes you just have to grind your way through an early January basketball game.
Visiting St. Augustine Prep, coming off a snowy weekend, was anything but sharp, but the Hermits did enough to get some separation early from rival Holy Spirit before cruising to a 45-22 victory to remain undefeated at 6-0.
“That was one of the worst offensive games one of my teams has played in my 30 years. I don’t know. When we had to get a bucket and needed to score, they said, ‘OK, we’ll play for these three minutes,’ and then they didn’t play. I feel bad, because we don’t usually play like that,” said Hermits veteran coach Paul Rodio. “Defensively, we were OK. We did what we had to do. In a normal St. Augustine-kind of game we play defense and run some sort of patterns, but we didn’t run anything. We have to go back and figure it out. It just wasn’t a good game.”
St. Augustine jumped out to a 12-0 lead after one quarter. Walter Harvey scored off a steal to make it 6-0 at the halfway mark of the quarter, forcing Holy Spirit (5-4) to call a time out. Things didn’t get much better after that, though, as Justyn Mutts threw down a huge slam dunk off a steal and scored again in transition to push the lead to 12-0. The Hermits got it to 14-0 before Spirit finally scored early in the second quarter on an inside bucket by Joe Marczyk off a feed from Dante Daniel.
Despite the early lead, the Hermits looked sloppy and out of sync on offense throughout much of the first half. Jumping out to a 14-0 lead took a lot of life out of the Holy Spirit crowd, but it also seemed to sap energy from the Hermits players.
“It might have, but it shouldn’t have. We just weren’t playing well, weren’t playing together. I played here my sophomore year and it was crazy, the stands were packed. They had a big crowd and we had a big crowd and it was crazy the whole game. It was different this time,” said Mutts, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound senior who has committed to High Point University. “We’ll go back and watch the game tonight and we’ll definitely figure out what we did wrong and what we have to improve on. It’s a long season and we have a lot of games left. I think, definitely, this team is going to go far this year.”
“It was weird. We played like it didn’t matter, and, obviously, you can’t be successful or be any good if you play like that. I’m not taking anything away from Holy Spirit, that’s just how we played. If we turned it over, it didn’t seem to matter, and it was horrendous. We’ll go back tomorrow and work on it and get better,” Rodio said. “I haven’t seen us look like that all year. I think they just played like it didn’t matter, and I hate to say that. It didn’t matter if what we did, we’ll make enough (shots) that we’ll be ahead. And that approach, I don’t coach that way and we don’t play that way. It was the worst we’ve looked in 20 or 25 years. And they were in a 3-2 zone; it’s not like they were pressuring us. I don’t know how many turnovers we had, but every one of them was an unforced turnover. We never got into any continuity.”
Rodio said Holy Spirit didn’t do anything exotic defensively and that the Hermits knew they’d be seeing a lot of zone defense. In fact, it’s what they’ve been working on for the past two days in practice, but they couldn’t find a way to get into a groove offensively.
“We worked on (facing a zone defense) for two days. We looked excellent yesterday, we knew exactly what they were going to do and we shot the ball well (in practice), but we didn’t do that tonight. We looked like we had never seen a 3-2 zone. I thought we were out of sync, from me down to them,” Rodio said. “The positive is we won. I feel bad for them. It’s supposed to be an emotional, rivalry game. Maybe we have to take a step back and look at ourselves. I think psychologically we weren’t there. We have a big schedule ahead of us. We have Atlantic City on Saturday and Wildwood Catholic on Monday, and if we play like that we won’t beat those teams. We have to get better, or we’re going to get beat.”
Holy Spirit cut the deficit to 28-12 on a three-point play by Daniel, who led the way with seven points, with 2:55 left in the third quarter, but couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way. Mutts led the Hermits with 15 points while Marlon Hargis added nine and Harvey eight.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN