ABSECON - Over and over, Middle Township High School players drove toward the basket and passed back to teammates for open 3-pointers.
As shot after shot went in, a close defensive battle became a statement win for the Panthers on the road.
Middle made seven 3-pointers in the second half to pull away for a 51-34 win over Holy Spirit in a Cape-Atlantic League interdivision boys basketball game Saturday afternoon.
Four players scored in double digits for Middle Township (8-2), which is ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11. Holy Spirit (6-3) is No. 9.
"We beat a team that we hold in high regard, and on their home floor," Middle coach Tom Feraco said. "They're not easy tasks."
The game was physical from the beginning, and tempers flared several times. Middle's Tom Feraco - the coach's son - and Darrell Shelton both picked up their third fouls and were relegated to the bench with about four minutes left in the second quarter, and it looked as if the Panthers might be in trouble.
But Middle got to halftime with a 20-17 lead.
In the second half, the Panthers came out firing.
Feraco, Tom Catanoso and Shelton each made a 3-pointer in the first four minutes of the third quarter as Middle opened a 31-20 lead.
"They do play the right way," Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said. "They share the ball. They penetrate to set up teammates. They kick the ball. And they've got shooters everywhere."
Feraco set up three open 3-pointers in the game with terrific passes. The senior forward finished with 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
"We take pride in dribble penetration and kicking it out," the younger Feraco said. "And we have a hell of a lot of shooters on our team, and everyone can knock it down. Five or six kids can knock it down. So we drive, and if somebody's open we kick it out, and they usually make them."
Catanoso and LaMarr Greer each finished with 12 points. Shelton had 11, all in the second half.
"My teammates found me in the second half and set some shots up and made it easy for me," Shelton said.
With a 51-28 lead, Middle emptied most of its bench in the final minutes.
Holy Spirit, meanwhile, was frustrated throughout most of the game. One day after combining for 38 points in a win over Egg Harbor Township, top scorers Paul Moore and Junior Saintel were held to five against Middle.
Moore tweaked an ankle injury early in the game and while he played through it, he finished with just three points. Saintel was held to just two, sitting out most of the second half after being whistled for his fourth foul 36 seconds into the third quarter.
"We got outplayed the whole second half. That's disappointing," Gillespie said. "The only thing you can do is come back to practice tomorrow and try and get yourself ready to play Tuesday (against Atlantic City)."
Middle, meanwhile, moves forward as one of the favorites in the Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group II. The Panthers' only losses have been to Atlantic City, which is No. 1 in the Elite 11, and state powerhouse St. Anthony of Jersey City.
"On nights like this when we shoot it well, we're good," the elder Feraco said.
Contact Jason Mazda:
Middle Township 10 10 18 13-51
Holy Spirit 8 9 8 9-34
MT-Shelton 4 0-0 11, Catanoso 3 3-4 12, Feraco 4 2-2 11, Greer 4 3-4 12, Moore 1 1-2 3, Cowan 0 2-4 2. Totals 16 11-16 51.
HS-Midi 3 0-0 6, Daniels 2 0-2 5, Saintel 1 0-0 2, Barnes 2 3-4 8, Moore 1 0-4 3, Middleton 3 2-2 8, Dixon 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 5-12 34.
3-pointers-Catanoso (3), Feraco, Shelton (3), Greer MT; Barnes, Daniels, Moore HS.
Records-Middle 8-2, Spirit 6-3.