ABSECON - The Holy Spirit High School girls basketball team knew about Point Pleasant Beach's Marina Mabrey and Katelynn Flaherty.
The Spartans had heard plenty about the duo, two of the state's most talented players. Containing either of them would be a key to victory.
But Holy Spirit had no answer for Mabrey and Flaherty on Sunday. The two combined for 59 points as unbeaten Point Pleasant Beach defeated the Spartans 70-61 in the final game of the 18th annual Prime Events Shootout, a two-day event that included some of the best teams from around the region and the state.
Mabrey, a sophomore, and Flaherty, a junior, have sparked the Garnet Gulls to a 14-0 start after the team won just two games last season. The duo transferred to Point Pleasant Beach this year from Manasquan, which won the Tournament of Champions last year. Point Pleasant Beach is a favorite to win the state Group I championship.
Mabrey scored 32 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and six steals. Flaherty had 27 points.
"They were a very intense team. They were exactly what we expected," Holy Spirit junior guard Summer Crilley said. "They were talked up a lot, so we knew it was going to be a tough game."
Crilley scored 17 points and had six assists and four steals despite playing much of the second half in foul trouble. She had seven in the first quarter as Spirit jumped out to a 19-13 lead.
The Spartans (10-3), who are ranked No. 11 in The Press Elite 11, showed their will to win in the loss. They trailed by 12 with a little more than three minutes left to play.
Sophomore Audrey Wilson took a pass from Valerie Garofalo, quickly set her feet and nailed a 3-point shot. The crowd roared as Wilson's basket capped a 9-0 run that cut the Spartans' deficit to three points with 1 minute, 26 seconds left to play.
"It gave us confidence that we were back in the game and that we could come out with the win," Crilley said.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, that was as close as they'd come to catching up. The Garnet Gulls outscored them 9-3 in the final 80 seconds.
Holy Spirit failed to get a rebound on a missed Point Pleasant Beach free throw on the following play. The offensive rebound turned into a basket by Flaherty that made it a multiple-possession game again.
Effort is never an issue for Holy Spirit. Its players battle till the final buzzer sounds. Missed layups, missed key rebounds and unforced errors kept the Spartans behind.
Spirit coach Dennis Smith said he wished his guards had taken the ball to the basket more often. Point Pleasant Beach took 40 foul shots to the Spartans' 18.
"It's funny to say when you look at the scoreboard, but it wasn't a defensive issue," Smith said. "It was our offensive execution.
Although Holy Spirit was aggressive on defense, there wasn't much the Spartans could do to stop Mabrey and Flaherty. Each player dribbled around and through multiple defenders. Mabrey once brought the ball down the court past all five Spirit defenders for a layup.
Garnet Gulls coach Michael Feerst expected a challenge from the Spartans after watching them play Rumson-Fair Haven on Jan. 19.
"Their team is good. This probably rated up there with our game against St. Rose. I'm very proud of (our) team," Feerst said.
Holy Spirit made things difficult for the Garnet Gulls. Gina Lewis scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots. Annie Wenz posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Garofalo had seven rebounds and six assists.
"I wanted this win more for them, so they could see the fruits of their labor. They've been working very hard," Smith said.
Holy Spirit travels to Millville on Tuesday. The Spartans would clinch at least a share of the Cape-Atlantic League American Division title with a win.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
Point Pleasant Beach 13 15 17 25-70
Holy Spirit 19 10 10 22-61
PPB-Meyer 1 0-0 3, Motto 2 2-2 7, Flaherty 8 9-12 27, Mabrey 6 17-20 32, Johnson 0 0-2 0, Sartori 0 1-2 1. Totals-17 29-40 70.
HS-Garofalo 2 0-1 4, Crilley 5 6-6 17, Wenz 5 2-2 12, Long 1 0-0 2, Lewis 8 5-8 17, Wilson 1 2-2 5, Shields 1 2-2 4. Totals-23 13-18 61.
3-pointers-Meyer, Motto, Flaherty (2), Mabrey (3) PPB; Crilley, Wilson HS.
Records-Pt. Pleasant Beach 14-0; Spirit 10-3.