BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - The Holy Spirit High School boys basketball team rallied when it could have faded Friday night.
Archbishop Wood of Pennsylvania staved off a Spirit comeback and beat the Spartans 46-39 in a PA/NJ Catholic School Christmas Mixer game at St. Augustine Prep.
Holy Spirit (4-1) trailed by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter but cut the lead to one in the fourth quarter.
"We have to take it to teams from the start," Spirit guard Paul Moore said. "We just can't wait until the second half. We should have never have been in that hole. Now we know and we have to learn from that."
Spirit, which is ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, had played Thursday, beating Father Judge 60-45. Wood (4-3) was off Thursday. Wood sank 8-of-13 shots from 3-point range Friday, while Spirit finished 2-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said it would have been easy for the Spartans to use the back-to-back games as an excuse and play listlessly once they fell behind by double digits.
"They're a really good team," Gillespie said of Wood. "They're physical. They're tough. They have shooters. They deserve credit for how they played, and I give my kids a ton of credit. We played back-to-back, but we battled and battled."
The PA/NJ Catholic School Mixer matches teams from parochial schools from the Cape-Atlantic League against their Philadelphia-area counterparts. Wood is projected to be one of the top teams in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Atlantic City beat Wood 38-37 in a Boardwalk Basketball Classic game in Wildwood last Saturday. The PA/NJ Catholic School Mixer concludes today with three more games at St. Augustine.
Spirit seemed a step slow in the first half, especially on defense. Wood swingman Pat Smith (17 points) sank three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Wood forward Shane Neher scored in the lane to give the Vikings a 26-13 lead with 4 minutes, 1 second left in the first half.
"I don't know if the kids underestimated the type of team they are, but obviously we weren't playing good defense," Gillespie said. "At halftime, we talked about physically picking it up, fighting through screens and not allowing Smith to get shots."
Spirit forward Junior Saintel (10 points) sparked the Spartans' comeback in the third quarter. He scored six points as Spirit closed the quarter with a 12-4 run to cut Wood's lead to five points.
"We realized we were about to lose," Moore said of the motivation for the Spirit comeback. "It's as simple as that."
Moore, who averaged 21 points in Spirit's first four games, struggled shooting and finished with seven points. But he contributed in other ways with six assists and three steals.
"If I'm not scoring, it's my job to get my teammates going," Moore said. "I keep that in my head."
Moore's layup with 4:52 left cut Wood's lead to 38-37, but Spirit got no closer.
Spirit had the ball twice with a chance to take the lead but couldn't score on either possession, missing shots in the lane.
With Wood up 41-39, Moore drove the lane but his shot that would have tied the contest spun in and out of the hoop.
Wood guard Cody Fitzpatrick and Smith then each sank 3-pointers in the final 3:40 to clinch the victory for the Vikings.
Although Spirit lost, the game with its physical style and intensity gave the Spartans a preview of what it's like to play in the postseason.
"This is a great game for us to be tested early in the season," Gillespie said. "In the long run, it shows us what it means to battle and compete. It's only going to pay dividends in March."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Arch Bishop Wood 14 15 9 8-46
Holy Spirit 8 13 12 6-39
AW-Pat Smith 6 0-0 17, Cody Fitzpatrick 3 2-2 10, Joe LoStracco 2 2-2 6, Eric Walsh 2 0-1 5, Luke Connaghan 1 1-2 3, Shane Neher 1 1-2 3, Tom Rush 1 0-1 2. Totals-16 6-10 46.
HS-Junior Saintiel 4 1-1 10, John Midi 4 1-1 9, Paul Moore 2 3-4 7, John Middleton 3 0-0 7, Leon Daniels 2 0-0 4, Mark Rassmann 1 0-0 2. Totals-16 5-6 39.
3-pointers-Smith (5), Fitzpatrick (2), Walsh AW; Saintiel, Middleton HS.
Records-AW 4-3, Spirit 4-1.