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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joe falls in Non-Public B semis

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. St. Joseph Academy’s Arnaldo Rodriguez (13) dribbles around St. Rose defender Tyler Cameron (32) during last week’s South Jersey Non-Public B playoff game.

BELMAR—A sometimes tumultuous season came to an end for St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team last week, as the Wildcats were ousted from the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs with a lopsided 87-52 loss at St. Rose.

The host Purple Roses were in control from start to finish, beginning the game on a 16-4 run that swelled to a 31-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

St. Joseph had no answers for St. Rose’s up-tempo play, as the Roses used quick ball movement to generate open looks from the perimeter and drive to the basket for easy layups that sparked the win.

“They’re a very, very good basketball team and we just couldn’t get anything going. They took that huge lead on us and we were kind of on our heels right from the start,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.

Matthew Hodge did most of the early damage for the Purple Roses, scoring 17 of his game-high 24 points in the first quarter.

“He [Hodge] is one of the best players in the state and he showed why tonight,” Rodio said.

St. Rose’s pressure forced several St. Joseph turnovers, leading to transition points and allowing the Roses to take a 49-19 lead into halftime.

St. Rose substituted for much of the second half, and St. Joe was able to put more points on the board, led by Rodriguez, Theophile and Shamar Cox, who tallied seven points in the loss.

The defeat left the Wildcats with a 15-13 record in a season where the Wildcats showed resiliency against a lot of adversity.

“We never gave up and just kept fighting all season. We started slow, losing our first three games and I think we really could have just folded up, but we told the kids to just have faith and they did and we were able to turn it around and win 10-of-12 games. Then we had a few kids get sick and some hurt and we struggled for a while, but we finished strong and at the end, we were just 32 minutes away from playing for the South Jersey title,” Rodio said.

Playing without a home gymnasium, the Wildcats essentially played every game on the road this season. A few “home” games were played at Buena.

“It’s not an ideal situation for us and combined with what I think was just a brutal schedule, for us to win as many games as we did and go as far as we did this year says a lot about how hard our kids worked and believed,” Rodio said.

Having completed his ninth season leading the Wildcats, Rodio admitted that he has changed both his methods and philosophy.

“In the beginning, I think I was more concerned with winning as many games as we could, getting to 20 wins, but now it’s more about building a culture. And I think we’re getting there. We’ve been competitive every year. At first, because of the state format, we weren’t winning playoff games. Then we started to win one, then two and now two years in a row, we’re in the semifinals. It shows the progress and how we’re beginning to establish that winning culture,” Rodio said.


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