GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Absegami High School's girls basketball team got its season off to an encouraging start Friday night.
The Braves relied on a balanced offense and tough defense to earn a 45-34 over Lower Cape May Regional in the season-opener for both Cape-Atlantic League teams.
"This was a good win for us," Absegami coach Megan Tracey said. "It was a team win. Everybody contributed to it."
Junior forward Eva Sodatis shook off a knee injury early in the fourth quarter to score a team-high 13 points for the Braves.
Freshman guard Julia Doran came off the bench to add nine points. Sophomore forward Sara Pietropola helped Absegami dominate the paint with a game-high 10 rebounds and senior center Barbara Gedeon snared seven.
Absegami controlled the inside against a Lower Cape May team that didn't have a player taller than 5-foot-9.
Most of the Caper Tigers' possessions were one-shot opportunities, usually by junior guard Lauren Holden. Holden, who has verbally committed to play for Division I Fordham University, scored a game-high 21 points.
"We got beat up on the boards and in the paint tonight, but we knew that coming in because we have no size," Lower coach Scott Douglass said. "I thought we battled pretty well in the first half, but (the lack of height) eventually caught up with us."
The Braves took control in the third quarter, when they outscored the Caper Tigers 14-5 to grab a 34-23 lead. Lower Cape May never got closer than eight points the rest of the game.
Sodatis opened the second half with a layup, sophomore forward Arielle Schafer made two free throws and Pietropola converted an offensive rebound to put the Braves ahead 24-18 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Holden's 3-point play later in the period cut the Braves' lead to five points at 28-23, but Absegami answered with six more points on a pair of drives from Sodatis and a jumper from Doran.
"I was hoping to have a big role tonight," Sodatis said. "I want to be a leader for my team this season."
She received a scare later in the game, however, when she became entangled with a Lower player while scrambling for a loose ball.
Sodatis writhed on the court while Absegami's athletic trainer examined her left knee. She was in obvious pain while being helped off the court.
But four minutes later, she was back.
"When it first happened, it was a little shaky," Sodatis said. "I think I scared myself."
Absegami also received an impressive defensive effort from junior point guard Mary Riggs, who was guarding Holden for much of the game.
Holden showed why she's considered one of South Jersey's top players by sinking a pair of 3-pointers and converting a series of acrobatic drives, but Riggs used some inside information to help contain her.
Holden scored six of her 21 points in the second half and shot 9 for 27 for the game.
"Lauren and I play for the same AAU team, the Atlantic Cape Wildcats, and we're also good friends," Riggs said. "We used to go against each other a lot during (AAU) practices, so I definitely know her strengths and I think that helped me tonight."
Contact David Weinberg:
Lower Cape May 10 8 5 11 - 34
Absegami 12 8 14 11 - 45
LCM - Holden 9 1-1 21, Gibson 4 0-0 8, Magee 1 1-2 3, Young 0 0-0 0, Wunder 0 2-2 2. Totals 14 4-5 34.
A - Riggs 3 0-1 6, Sodatis 6 1-3 13, Schafer 0 3-4 3, Pietropola 1 0-0 2, Clarke 3 2-2 8, Gedeon 2 0-2 4, Doran 4 0-0 9. Totals 19 6-12 45.
3-pointers: Holden (2) L; Doran A.
RECORDS: Lower Cape May 0-1; Absegami 1-0.