ABSECON - Kristine Miller rarely looks up at her opponents.
The Cedar Creek High School girls basketball player didn't shrink from the challenge on Saturday.
The 5-foot-10 Miller scored 26 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked four shots to lead the Pirates to a 55-48 win over Lenape in a Prime Events Girls Basketball Shootout game at Holy Spirit.
Lenape featured 6-2 Alexis Sears and 6-3 Maddie Sims. Few teams - if any - on Cedar Creek's Cape-Atlantic League schedule can match that height.
"I loved it," Miller said of playing against taller opponents. "I kind of miss that in our league. I love a challenge."
The Prime Events Shootout features some of the state's top teams. Cedar Creek (11-2) is No. 5 in The Press Elite 11, while Lenape (14-2) is No. 8.
The victory gave Cedar Creek a boost toward a top seed in the South Jersey Group II playoffs. Teams will be seeded for the state tournament this season on power points. They earn power points based on their wins and their opponents enrollment and victories. Lenape is a Group IV school - largest enrollment class.
"We were looking forward to this game to see how we would do," Cedar Creek coach Fran Raph said. "I knew it would be close, and I think the girls stepped up when they needed to."
Cedar Creek controlled the tempo of the game from the start. The Pirates sped up Lenape with a full-court press. Miller used her speed to beat Lenape defenders down the floor for fast-break baskets.
"When a court is bigger like this, we try to push the ball as much as we can," Raph said. "My kids can run and run and run. We knew (Miller) would be faster than their (tall players). That was key. If she could beat them down the court, we could keep running and running on them and hopefully wear them out."
The Pirates led by as many as 11 in the third quarter before Lenape rallied to tie the game at 41 with 5 minutes, 56 seconds left in the contest.
"They're a Group IV school and they weren't going to lay down and let us beat them," Miller said. "I just knew we had to relax and play our game. I knew at 41-41 I had to step up. I said, 'If there's anytime to step up, it's right now.' "
Miller scored the Pirates' next seven points. She drove the lane and scored with 5:37 to give Creek a two-point lead it never relinquished. She scored on an inside move in the lane to put the Pirates up four with 1:58 left.
Miller was the only Pirate to score in double figures, but Cedar Creek also got key baskets from other players in the second half.
Morgan Stefanski sank a 3-pointer to start the second half. Jahniece Jaffe made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Mikila Stefanski (eight points, four assists) drove for a layup with 1:12 left to put the Pirates up four. Casey Thomas, a 6-0 sophomore, complemented Miller inside with eight points and four rebounds.
"Those were huge," Raph said. "We're definitely a team. Kristine gets a lot of publicity, but we are a true team."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Lenape 11 17 16 14 - 48
Cedar Creek 11 12 13 19 - 55
LEN - Jones 7 2-7 18, Holmes 3 1-3 8, Sims 3 1-2 7, Sears 3 3-4 9, Magana-Nichols 1 2-4 4, McErlean 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 9-20 48
CK - Jaffe 1 2-4 5, Mi. Stefanski 3 2-2 8, Me. Stefanski 1 1-1 3, Mo. Stefanski 1 2-5 5, Miller 11 4-7 26, Thomas 3 2-2 8. Totals 20 13-21 55
3-pointers - LEN. Jones (2), Holmes; CK. Jaffe, Mo. Stefanski CK.
Records - Lenape 14-2; Cedar Creek 11-2
© 2016 pressofAtlanticCity.com