RAHWAY - Junior Saintel of the Holy Spirit High School boys basketball team drove across the lane for a one-handed dunk that drew roars from the crowd at Rahway High School on Saturday night.
Dupree McBrayer of the Patrick School immediately ran down court and sank a long-range 3-pointer.
That was the problem for Spirit. Whenever the Spartans did something well, the Patrick School quickly did something better.
The Celtics beat Holy Spirit 75-49 in a South Jersey Non-Public B semifinal. The Spartans finish their season 21-7. Saintel scored 15 points. Spirit junior guard John Middleton scored 16.
But the Patrick School shot the ball so well there was really nothing Spirit could do. The Celtics went 6-for-7 from 3-point range in the first quarter. Patrick School freshman Jamir Harris (23 points) sank his first six 3-point attempts.
"They shot the ball extremely well," Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said. "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that. It would be hard for anybody to beat them if they shoot like that."
The Patrick School (23-5) is the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey bracket and the favorite to win the state title. The Elizabeth school has no home court, so it plays its games at Rahway. The Patrick School is considered one of the top contenders to win the Tournament of Champions.
Spirit, the No. 3 seed, came into the game off its best game of the season - a 67-52 win over sixth-seeded Gill St. Bernard in Thursday's quarterfinal.
The Patrick School took control with a 21-2 run that turned an 8-8 game with 6 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first quarter into a 29-10 lead with less than a minute left in the period.
Harris sank five 3-pointers during the stretch – most of them in transition. The Patrick School beat the Spartans down the court for open shots.
"It wasn't because we turned the ball over," Gillespie said. "It was because they shot the ball extremely well. We got hurt in transition. Their speed was an adjustment for us. You can't prepare your kids for that."
Spirit held its own after that first-quarter blitz. The Spartans cut the lead to 14 in the second quarter but could get no closer.
"I'm proud of my kids because they didn't cave in," Gillespie said, "and they could have easily. I thought we did a good job of competing with them. I can't fault our effort."
Saintel played one of his best games of the season, more than holding his own against the talented Patrick School players. He had two dunks and showed his versatility by sinking a 3-pointer.
Gillespie took the 6-foot-7 senior out of the game with 1:49 left. The Spirit fans gave Saintel a standing ovation.
"Time flies," Saintel said. "I was just a freshman. Now it's over. I don't regret anything. It was the best four years of my life."
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