By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
ABSECON — A highly anticipated girls basketball matchup that featured two of the best players in the state came down to the wire in overtime on Saturday at the Seagull Classic at Holy Spirit High School, and the difference maker was a little-known role player for Gloucester Catholic.
Mainland Regional junior Kylee Watson — one of the most highly recruited players in the nation — and Gloucester Catholic senior Azana Baines, a Duke University commit, each did their thing and filled up the state sheet in all kinds of different categories, but it was several big free throws and rebounds down the stretch by the Rams’ Jada Williams that made the difference as Gloucester Catholic held on for a 60-58 victory over the retooled Mustangs. Mainland came into this season featuring four new starters to go along with Watson, and thanks to some sharp shooting from the outside from Madi Hafetz and Claudia Mairone in the first half the Mustangs were able to hold the lead throughout much of the game. But the Rams — who lost to Mainland in double overtime in last year’s Seagull Classic — continued to chip away at the lead behind Baines, Williams and point gaurd Mycala Carney, and were able to exact some revenge for last season’s heartbreaking loss.
Mainland led by as many as 11 points midway through the fourth quarter, but showed a bit of its inexperience in big games with some key turnovers in the fourth that helped the Rams carve away at the lead.

Kylee Watson had a huge game in Mainland’s overtime loss to Gloucester Catholic at the Seagull Classic, finishing with 25 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and seven blocked shots. (Glory Days Magazine file photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“They turned us over a little bit more than we would like to see, but honestly, I think the story of the game was the two threes that they hit late. Defensively, we were trying to force their other kids — and not Baines — to beat us, and their kids stepped up and made big plays. It’s a tough matchup for us because Baines is so good, and she’s so big. Ideally, we’d like to have Kylee on her defensively, but they also had Jada, which puts us in a real bind on the back end. I thought we did a really nice job with it for the most part, but the bottom line is we turned the ball over a little too much and they made some monster jump shots at the end of the game,” said Mainland coach Scott Betson. “We take out of this that we executed the game plan pretty well. We did what we wanted to. You take out of it if we make a few free throws at the end or knock down a couple of open jumpers there late, it’s a different game. We’ll be better off for having played in this game.”
“We had a lot of turnovers that cost us the game, which we’ll definitely work on in the long run. It was obviously disappointing, having gone into overtime and having a 10-point lead, but we’re going to build from this,” Watson added. “Coming into it, we knew we would be the underdog and weren’t expected to win with that they had returning. I think they are ranked ninth in the state right now, but I think we proved we can be in these games and if we play hard and play well we can shock a lot of people. It didn’t come out the way we wanted, but it was a hard-fought game and we gave it our all.”
Freshman guard Camryn Dirkes had the unenviable task of guarding Baines throughout much of the game, and did a good job, limiting the Rams’ star to just nine first-half points. Baines finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Dirkes matched her with 13 points of her own while adding three rebounds and two assists. Watson, who is being recruited by some of the top college basketball schools in the country, played perhaps the best game of her career, nearly hitting a quadruple-double. She scored a game-high 25 points, added 11 rebounds and had six assists and seven blocked shots. She also had two steals and only one turnover the entire game.
“In my mind, I thought Kylee was the best player on the floor, I think that was obvious. Her rebounding, handling the ball, her play inside, and all around, I thought she played outstanding,” Betson said.
“I knew I would have to step it up. Not a lot of girls on our team have a lot of varsity experience, so I needed to be a leader with my action and my words, so when I went out on the court I knew I had to give it my all, and (my teammates) were on the same page with me. All we could do was play hard,” Watson said. “(Gloucester Catholic) definitely stepped up, they’re a very good team all around. We knew coming into it that they would knock down some shots, but we wanted the other girls (aside from Baines) to beat us, and they hit some big shots. I think we played pretty well defensively. Camryn did an amazing job defensively on Azana, so we definitely gave it our all.”
Betson said he had no reservations about giving Dirkes a tough defensive assignment.
“We have full confidence in Cam and that’s something she’ll get better from,” he said. “That’s a freshman going up against an ACC-level player, so that’s a thing she’s going to take with her, a badge of honor. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the win, but that’s definitely something we should feel good about.”
The Rams were the first big test for the Mustangs, who came into the game a perfect 8-0, and Betson said playing an opponent the caliber of Gloucester Catholic (6-1) will pay dividends as the season progresses.
“You’re not going to see too many teams like that, honestly. There aren’t too many of them that exist. To be in games like this will be good for us, but it will only be good for us if we learn from it. We have to take care of the turnover and we have to be able to hit free throws. As long as we correct those things, yeah, we’ll be better off for (playing this game),” Betson said. “This was an outstanding high school basketball game, that’s what it comes down to. We were talking on the ride over here about as much as this is an awesome showcase event, and you’re not going to see two ACC-level players even in these boys games, it’s an abberation and really a treat to be a part of. If we make a couple of those open jumpers it’s a different conversation.”

Zhyana Young scored 17 points to help lead Holy Spirit past Delsea Regional, the Spartans’ first victory of the season. (Glory Days Magazine file photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


Holy Spirit 45, Delsea Regional 36 (girls): Showcase host Holy Spirit, playing without injured point guard Paige Sofield, got a much-needed win over the Crusaders, getting 17 points from Zhyana Young and a double-double from Sophia Pasquale (12 points, 10 rebounds) to stop a seven-game losing streak to start the season and pick up its first victory. The Crusaders forced the Spartans into 24 turnovers, and scored 17 points off those miscues, but Holy Spirit had a big fourth quarter, outscoring Delsea 16-8 in the final frame. Melody Pugliese chipped in eight points and six rebounds for Holy Spirit, while Peyton Gilmore and Kamille Morton combined for 25 points and 10 rebounds for Delsea.
St. Joseph 55, Rancocas Valley 38 (boys): The Wildcats (7-0) stayed perfect on the season by playing stingy defense, but coach Paul Rodio Jr. said after the game that he wasn’t all that pleased with his team’s performance.
“He’s a good coach, was really prepared and knew what we wanted to do to slow us down. As a team, it was probably by far our worst game this year. I didn’t think we played well even a little bit. I’m always happen when we win and I’m not going to complain about a win, but I thought it was as sloppy as it could get,” Rodio said. “We’ve been doing a great job the first month working on a lot of fundamentals, but when the game comes we kind of get away from it a little bit sometimes, and that showed. We’re going right back to the fundamentals with passing, jumping off two feet on layups and making high IQ plays.”
Rodio said he’s trying to remind his players that even though they are undefeated, there are going to be some tough games coming up and they need to continue to work hard at getting better.
“That’s a tough thing to tell teenagers sometimes. Being 7-0 doesn’t really mean anything right now, 7-0 with our schedule could turn into 8-5 in the blink of an eye. I just hope we keep doing it in practice,” he said. “You can’t just turn it on and off in this game. The pros can’t do it, and we can’t do it.”
St. Joe got a big game from Ian Brown, who scored 16 points to help out star guard Marcellus Ross, who finished with 11 points after getting into some foul trouble in the second half.
“I know when Marcellus is going to be on, and he hit a couple of threes, and if he didn’t get in foul trouble I think he would have went off,” Rodio said. “I told the kids after the game, Ian Brown plays because I know he’s going to do what I want, when I want it and how I want it. And that’s why he controls the game. (His performance) didn’t surprise me.”
Haddonfield 49, Linden 37 (boys): Haddonfield, one of six teams at the Seagull Classic that are ranked in the top 20 in the state, improved to 8-0 with a win over Linden, a traditional North Jersey Group 4 power. Dan Fleming went off for 25 points and added seven rebounds to pace the Bulldogs, who turned the ball over 19 times but shot better than 50 percent from the field to make up for it.
Moorestown 54, St. Augustine Prep 48: The Quakers rallied to upset the Hermits, fighting back from being down by 10 points early in the second half to hand Prep its first loss. Nick Cartwright-Atkins led the way for Moorestown, scoring a game-high 20 points, while Cole Vanderslice and Andrew Delaney led Prep with 16 and 12, respectively.
Eastern 61, Middle Township 57 (boys): The Vikings improved to 8-1 by outscoring the Panthers 20-10 in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind victory. Noah Klinewski led Eastern with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Ryan Ems finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Middle got 21 points from Marcus Pierce, while Mike Sgrignioli and Matt Marino each added 11.
Patrick School 64, Camden 59 (boys): In the marquee matchup of the night, the Patrick School, one of the top 10 teams in the state, withstood a challenge from Camden, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter after the Panthers had limited the Celtics to just eight in the third. Al-Amir Dawes scored a game-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting while adding seven rebounds and four steals. The Celtics will stay overnight and play again on Sunday, when they face Wildwood Catholic at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays