VINELAND - Kristine Miller has a lengthy list of accomplishments as a Cedar Creek High School girls basketball player.

Her achievements include a South Jersey and state championship and more than 1,000 career points. But there are a few things that have eluded the senior.

Miller and the Pirates checked one of them off Monday.

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Cedar Creek defeated host Sacred Heart 54-43 in a Cape-Atlantic League United Division game behind Miller's huge performance. The 6-foot forward scored 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots.

It was the first time the Pirates (9-2), who are ranked No. 5 in The Press Elite 11 in just their third year as a varsity program, ever beat the Lions (9-2). Sacred Heart beat Cedar Creek twice last year and went on to win the division title as well as the inaugural CAL playoff tournament.

"I'm so happy," Miller said, as she accepted hugs and high-fives from friends after the game. "It feels like this was two years overdue."

The victory gave Cedar Creek sole possession of first place in the United Division race. The Pirates and Lions each entered the game unbeaten in the division.

Cedar Creek used its speed in a full court pressure defense. Sacred Heart was often flustered by the coverage.

The Lions' best ball-handler, senior Mandy Buirch (10 points), was triple-teamed multiple times. Cedar Creek sophomore Casey Thomas blocked three shots to steal some of the Sacred Heart's momentum during the second half.

Offensively, Jahniece Jaffe added 12 points, six of which came from two 3-pointers in less than a minute during an 8-2 run that put the Pirates up by 12 points late in the third quarter.

Aside from a 16-16 tie in the second period, Cedar Creek led the entire way.

"For us to come here and win, and play well was a great boost for us," Cedar Creek coach Francine Raph said.

Miller and Sacred Heart center Kennedy Johnson put on a dazzling show for spectators.

Johnson, a 6-foot-2 junior, had 20 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots. Each player displayed strength and prowess under the basket.

"I totally appreciate her game and how well she plays," Miller said. "Everyone knows Sacred Heart as a team that beats us. I love surprising people."

The Lions have done some surprising themselves this season.

Sacred Heart lost six key players from last year's 25-2 squad to either graduation or transfer. Johnson and Buirch are the only returnees with real experience. It was uncertain how the Lions would start their season.

Sacred Heart won nine of its first 10 games, and even in the loss to Cedar Creek showed the Lions are quickly rebuilding.

"When you look at what we've lost and where we're at now - I'm very proud of these girls," Sacred Heart coach Steve DiPatri said.

The Pirates celebrated briefly in Sacred Heart's gym before filing onto the team's bus. Getting a one-game advantage over the Lions was especially nice on the road.

Cedar Creek hosts Sacred Heart on Feb. 11, and the United Division title likely will be on the line.

The Pirates are confident, but they're not ready to call themselves the best just yet.

"Everyone's playing their best against us, so we have to continue to come out and play hard," Raph said. "We're not really the team to beat until we get that title."

Contact Brittany Grugan:


Cedar Creek 12 11 17 14--4

Sacred Heart 8 10 13 12-43

CC-Miller 12 5-8 29, Mi. Stefanski 2 0-0 5, Mer. Stefanski 0 2-3 2, Jaffe 5 0-0 12, Thomas 3 0-0 6. Totals-22 7-11 54.

SH-Johnson 9 2-2 20, Buirch 3 3-4 10, Carter 3 0-0 6, Smith 1 1-4 3, Ferrucci 2 0-0 4. Totals-18 6-10 43.

3-pointers-Mi. Stefanski, Jaffe (2) CC; Buirch SH.

Records-Cedar Creek 9-2; Sacred Heart 9-2.

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