ABSECON-The Holy Spirit High School girls basketball team operates on two principles.
The first is that the Spartans don't have a superstar. The other is that Spirit never quits.
Holy Spirit, No. 11 in The Press Elite 11, showed both Tuesday in a 48-29 win over Mainland Regional in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division game.
"There's not only one (go-to player) because they've all been in the system for years. If someone struggles, another is there to pick it up," Spirit coach Dennis Smith said.
Though the Spartans have talent through their roster, a few of them stood out Tuesday as Holy Spirit (9-2) continued its dominance over CAL American teams. The Spartans are 7-0 in the division and hold a three-game lead on Atlantic City (6-7, 4-3) and Mainland (8-7, 4-3) with five games left to play.
Senior forward Annie Wenz scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots - 10 of her points came in the third quarter on quick, crisp passes from senior guard Val Garofalo and junior guard Summer Crilley.
Wenz's play has improved tremendously since last year. Her footwork has improved and she shoots with accuracy - she was 10-for-13 from the field on Tuesday.
"I have more confidence this year," Wenz said. "I think being a a captain has made me want to step up more."
Garofalo played a balanced game with four points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Crilley added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Along with senior forward Gina Lewis (nine points, five rebounds), Wenz, Crilley and Garofalo are the heart of a Spartans team that have been unmatched by CAL opponents.
It's clear just how close the Spartans' leaders are on the court. When they're losing, they rally together. When they're winning, they have fun playing the game.
"We're a family," Garofalo said. "We can just read each other."
Holy Spirit benefits from its experience in division rivalry games. The Mustangs (8-7) relied heavily on standout senior Alex Raring, who had 11 points. Freshman Meaghan Stafford had eight points and nine rebounds.
The veteran Spartans learned lessons as a strong but young squad last year. Not overlooking teams was an important one. Doing so a year ago resulted in a 52-48 loss to Mainland, Spirit's only division loss last year.
"We went in with so much confidence because we were unbeaten, and we lost," Crilley said. "We want to make a statement this year."
The Spartans have hopes and expectations are high for the remainder of the season.
Smith took over as Holy Spirit's coach in 2010. When he met Garofalo, Wenz and Lewis, they were sophomores. Crilley was an incoming freshman. He saw the foundation of a successful program.
The Spartans are a perennially strong team in the Cape-Atlantic League, but have struggled to do much more. Despite numerous division championships, Holy Spirit has never won a South Jersey Non-Public A title. The Spartans last CAL championship was in 2006.
"We want to change these banners," Wenz said.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
Mainland Regional 2 6 10 10-28
Holy Spirit 15 9 19 9-49
MR-Stafford 3 2-4 8, Scannell 0 2-2 2, Raring 4 2-4 11, Urbon 1 0-0 3, Lopez 1 0-0 2, Scandin 1 0-0 2. Totals-10 6-10 28.
HS-Garofalo 1 1-2 4, Crilley 6 1-1 13, Wenz 10 0-0 20, Shields 1 0-0 2, Reale 0 1-2 1, Lewis 4 1-1 9. Totals-22 4-6 49.
3-pointers-Raring, Urbon MR; Garofalo HS.
Records-Mainland 8-7; Spirit 9-2.