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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Blue Devils cruise past rival Wildcats

Dan Russoman/THG. Hammonton’s Gabby Stevenson (15) dribbles past St. Joseph’s Cassidy Perri (1) late in lasts week’s game.

HAMMONTON—Longtime rivals clashed at Hammonton High School on January 12, as the host Blue Devils were able to defeat St. Joseph Academy 62-33 in a well-played game by both sides.

Angelina Virelli scored all of her team-high 13 points in the first half, helping Hammonton take control of the game as the Blue Devils cruised to the win.

The win was a special one for first-year Hammonton coach Ryan Staiger, who had led St. Joseph for the last two seasons.

“I was happy. Any time you beat your rival, across town, it’s a big win,” Staiger said.

The game was close in the opening minutes, but Virelli hit two key baskets and Jenna Vivadelli added six points as the Blue Devils took a 17-9 first-quarter lead.

In the second quarter, Virelli drilled a 3-pointer, adding seven points in the period to put Hammonton up 32-19 at the half.

Cassidy Perri helped St. Joe keep the game within reach as the senior guard scored seven of her game-high 16 points in the first half. Perri and Erica Paranzino combined to score 25 points for the Wildcats.

“They [St.Joe] played really well, our girls played well. Their girls, Cass [Perri] and Erica [Paranzino] did what we thought they were going to do, they did a really good job. I thought our girls did a good job trying to limit them to as little as possible,” Staiger said.

Both teams were frustrated by the referees, as the game was tightly officiated. Players on each team were assessed technical fouls as the rivalry fueled some intense play throughout the night.

“At halftime we talked about it,” Staiger said about the officiating.

“It was one of those things where we said, ‘Look, we can’t control anything but what our attitudes are.’ So, when we refocused, we talked about the task at hand, which was winning, just winning the game. Focus on what we can do. We can control our attitude, we control what we can control, which is us. So, we worry about that. We control our passes; we control our defense. We have to adjust to what the referees are calling. That was kind of the conversation we had a halftime, and I think it helped calm us down for the second half,” Staiger said.

Vivadelli and Sarah Griffiths combined for 14 second-half points as Hammonton pulled away for the win. Staiger was pleased with how the Blue Devils remained focused and closed out the victory.

“We played like a team at the end. We closed it out; we made some back door cuts and were efficient around the basket. I was really proud of how we closed it out,” he said.

The loss was one of three for St. Joseph last week, the team’s longest losing streak of the season.

“We’re in a tough stretch right now, playing some really strong teams. It’s been a learning process for us, but we’re getting better. We just need to find some more scoring, other than Cass and Erica, and be more consistent,” St. Joseph coach Jose Gonzalez said.

Staiger said he was impressed with how his former team played and that a few of his former players had reached out prior to the matchup last week.

“It’s funny, we were actually talking a little bit leading up to the game. There was a little trash talking here and there with Cass and Erica. And Cass works with me with the Bulldogs, so on Saturday, she was joking around, talking and it was friendly banter. It stinks to beat them because they’re great kids, but at the same time those girls played really hard over there,” Staiger said.

Staiger took over St. Joseph’s program in 2021 and helped rebuild a struggling program. The Wildcats former coach was impressed with the team’s progress this year.

“It was fun to see, because in previous years, when we’d play these games, they weren’t close at all. And today, they were so much better. They were making good cuts, making good screens, making good reads and they were understanding when to reset and work it again. It was fun to see because a lot of the things we talked about last year, they were doing this year. And I’m sure Jose is doing a great job with them, too. So, it was fun to see them improve and play good ball,” Staiger said.


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