Gina Lewis and Kennedy Johnson are two of the South Jersey's premier high school girls basketball players.
They are also cousins and best friends. They spend countless time together.
Today, they are opponents.
Holy Spirit and Sacred Heart will tip off at noon today in the Cape-Atlantic League championship game at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township. Lewis is a 6-foot forward at Holy Spirit, while Johnson is Sacred Heart's 6-2 center.
"I consider her my closest friend. We're always together," Lewis, a senior, said. "It'll be interesting. Our whole family is going to be there."
Lewis averages 11.3 points for the Spartans (19-5), who are the No. 3 seed in the tournament and ranked 11th in The Press Elite 11. Johnson, a junior, leads the CAL in scoring (19.8 points) and rebounds (13 rebounds) for Sacred Heart (19-6), which is the fifth seed.
The last time Sacred Heart and Holy Spirit met was exactly two years ago - Feb. 23, 2011. In that game, Johnson wore a Holy Spirit uniform.
Johnson played at Holy Spirit as a freshman before transferring to Sacred Heart. Aside from youth travel teams, her season at Spirit was the only time she and Lewis were teammates.
That hasn't stopped them from supporting each other. Lewis and Johnson are often spotted at each other's games, or together at games scouting other teams.
The two went to rival middle schools - Lewis to Atlantic Christian and Johnson to Pilgrim Academy. They've never played one-on-one but have been asked countless times who they think would win.
Lewis and Johnson, who both live in Galloway, finally will face off today.
"It's kind of cool. It'll be a rough game, though. We'll want to be physical," Johnson said.
Both will have key roles in the game and understand how the other will play. Lewis and Johnson are often spotted at local basketball games, either cheering each other on or scouting other teams.
On Thursday night, the girls went out to eat together with their families. That's when the playful trash talking began.
"I told her mom I was coming over (Friday), and (Johnson) said, 'No, you won't. We have to be enemies now,'" Lewis said.
The championship matchup has added intrigue because both Holy Spirit and Sacred Heart were considered underdogs in their semifinal games.
Sacred Heart is the defending CAL champion and a perennial league power, but the Lions were expected to be in a rebuilding season. Many people expected them to contend for a spot in the tournament, but not to be in position to win it all.
The Lions never doubted themselves. It showed in a decisive 54-42 upset victory over top-seeded Ocean City on Wednesday. Senior guard Mandy Buirch led Sacred Heart with 17 points.
"It's really great for us to be underdogs and make it all the way to the championship," Johnson said.
Holy Spirit is on a hot streak. The Spartans have won eight of their last nine games. They've had no trouble scoring either, combining for 131 points in their first two CAL tournament games. Junior guard Summer Crilley accounts for 46 of those.
For most of the Spartans, it's their first trip to the CAL final. Holy Spirit's last appearance was in 2010 when the seniors were freshmen. They won't take the opportunity for granted.
"They're going to bring intensity," Lewis said. "We're going to have to match it or bring more."
At the end of the game, a CAL champion will be crowned. Lewis and Johnson might finally have an answer for the one-on-one debate.
"It's all fun," Johnson said. "But when we get on the court, it'll be all about the game."
Contact Brittany Grugan:
© 2016 pressofAtlanticCity.com