The Mayan prophecy signaling the end of the world may not have arrived as scheduled, but the Millville High School boys’ basketball team certainly suffered a doomsday of sorts on the court Friday.
Facing their second Cape-Atlantic League American Conference heavyweight in four days, the Thunderbolts again struggled to put it together in a 59-39 loss to visiting Holy Spirit. On Tuesday, Millville (1-2) dropped its home opener by 15 points to Atlantic City, widely regarded as one of if not the top team in South Jersey.
The culprit so far for the Bolts has been consistency.
There are stretches when Millville flashes its potential, but there are longer stretches when the opposition is afforded the opportunity to run with momentum against the Bolts. That was the case Friday against the unbeaten Spartans (3-0).
Millville actually forced more turnovers than Holy Spirit, winning that battle 15-11, but the Spartans simply outworked the Bolts on defense and the glass.
“We just weren’t working hard at boxing out and getting rebounds,” Millville guard Roberto Rivera said. “They killed us on the boards, defensively and offensively, and our transition defense was all right, but we need to get better in a lot of spots. We just have to take this as a learning experience just like every other game, win or loss, and use it in practice (today).”
After seeing Holy Spirit race out to an 11-4 lead, the Bolts battled back to close the first quarter down just 14-9. Millville forward Terron Mitchell opened the second quarter with a bucket to pull the Bolts within three points, but the Spartans answered with a 10-0 run to push their lead to 24-11 before taking a 33-20 lead into halftime.
Holy Spirit capitalized on second- and third-chance opportunities, and often caught Millville flat-footed in transition following missed shots.
“They beat us in transition quite a bit when either we didn’t get back or we didn’t stop the basketball, and they took it right to the hole,” Millville coach Michael Jones said. “They killed us on the boards as well. They got a lot of second-chance points, which hurt us too.
“We have to box out better and we can do that, we just weren’t doing it in this game. It was a lack of focus on the boards. We were falling asleep at times.”
Millville showed life at the start of the third quarter, using a 10-3 run to cut its deficit to 38-30 with 4 minutes, 4 seconds showing on the clock. But again Spirit answered, using a 9-2 run of its own thanks solely to Junior Saintel, who accounted for all of Holy Spirit’s scoring over that span to close the third quarter. Saintel finished with 19 points while Spartans guard Paul Moore finished with a game-high 21.
Bolts guard Khaliq Ford scored four of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter when the Bolts forced five Spartans turnovers and momentarily changed the momentum. Millville just couldn’t stick with that productive formula.
“We started playing tougher defense, getting rebounds and holding them to fewer shots,” Ford said of how Millville found success. “We just didn’t do enough of it.”
The closest Millville would get the rest of the way was 49-36 with 6:48 to play following a 3-pointer by guard Rashon Sorrell. The Spirit defense held the Bolts to just three points for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
“We have to work on playing four quarters each and every day,” said Rivera, who was playing in his first game of the season after missing time with an ankle injury. “We can’t just come out good but end bad or the other way around. Right now we just have to come together as a team.”
Seeing Holy Spirit and Atlantic City this early in the season could be a positive for the Bolts. If nothing else, it was a good measuring stick for the team just three games into the season.
“It shows us where we’re at and what we have to work on,” Jones said. “The good thing is I think they are all things that are correctable. We just have to put the work in and realize there’s a lot of season left and we’re going to have a lot of good moments if we fix these things that we’ve been doing wrong lately.”