• Dan Russoman

St. Joe boys rout Mainland


St. Joseph’s Jared Demara dribbles past a Mainland defender. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—A strong second half surge helped St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team recover from a sluggish start to post a 62-33 win against Mainland last week in a Cape Atlantic League United Division matchup at Hammonton Middle School.


Arnaldo Rodriguez scored 16 points to lead the Wildcats, as four St. Joseph players reached double-digits in a balanced offensive attack.


The Wildcats jumped out to a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter, but Mainland fought back to tie the game before St. Joe used another 6-0 run to take a 12-6 lead into the second period.


Both teams fought for points in the second quarter, with Rodriguez’s 3-pointer helping the Wildcats carry a 23-15 advantage into halftime.


“We started off well, but then it got slow for a couple of quarters. When you have a week off, it’s a situation where sometimes you’re shaking off the rust, I just don’t understand why we go into those scoring droughts. Maybe it’s me, messing up the rotation; you don’t know who’s going to be on each night,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.


Turnovers hurt the Wildcats and helped keep Mainland in the game early in the second half before a Rodriguez 3-pointer and two baskets from Ja’son Prevard helped St. Joe pull away.


“We have sloppy possessions at big points in the game. We’re up 12-4, 12-6 whatever it is, and we’ll throw it away three times. Well, if we don’t maybe it’s 20-6. And against good teams and teams that are a little bit better, it’s going to hurt us immediately,” Rodio said.


Rodriguez hit two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Prevard added seven of his 12 points in the period as St. Joe used a 21-9 run to seal the win.


“This was a good win for us, especially after more than a week off. I was worried about how we’d come out and we were slow to start, but once we got it going, we looked OK,” Rodio said.


Majid Abdur-Rahim and Jared Demara each added 10 points for the Wildcats in the win.


Last weekend, St. Joseph saw its seven game winning streak come to an end when the Wildcats lost in overtime to Haddonfield 50-46 in the Seagull Classic at Holy Spirit High School.


The Wildcats struggled to score early in the game as turnovers led to several Haddonfield points. The Bulldogs slowed the pace of the game and used a zone defense to clog the lane and force the Wildcats into a perimeter game.


“They’re a very disciplined program. We’re an inexperienced team that hasn’t been together. I think we kind of let the moment get to us for about three quarters,” Rodio said.


Trailing by a point at the half, 21-20, St. Joseph led by a point early in the third quarter, but more miscues allowed Haddonfield to take a 33-28 lead into the fourth period.


In the fourth, Qiani Bowens drive and layup and a steal and dunk by Prevard helped the Wildcats force overtime with the game tied 37-37.


Haddonfield scored the first seven points of the extra period, building a 44-37 lead that the Wildcats were unable to overcome.


Prevard led St. Joe with 15 points while Rodriguez added 12.


“We learn through losses. This humbles us, and we have a lot of tough games coming up,” Rodio said.


Earlier this week, St. Joe played at rival Hammonton, but that game ended too late for this edition. On January 15, the Wildcats host Egg Harbor Twp. at 7 p.m. at Hammonton Middle School.