• Dan Russoman

St. Joe headed to CAL semifinals


St. Joseph’s Ja’son Prevard, left, passes around Millville’s Jabbar Barriento early in last week’s Cape Atlantic League playoff game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

BUENA—An outstanding defensive effort in the second half propelled St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team into the Cape Atlantic League (CAL) semifinals as the Wildcats outscored Millville 27-4 in the final two periods of last week’s quarterfinal matchup at Buena Regional High School.


“It’s kind of been a reoccurring theme for us this season. We have some moments where we struggle but we figure it out. Millville is a little chaotic, and that’s not to say that we’re not at times, but I thought in the second half, we played a little more under control,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.


The first half was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams, seeded fourth (St. Joe) and fifth (Millville) in the CAL tournament. Arnaldo Rodriguez hit a pair of 3-pointers, Ja’son Prevard had another trey and Jahmeer Cartagena’s steal and layup put the Wildcats ahead 11-4 early in the game.


Millville fought back to tie the score at 18 to end the first quarter, and then took a four-point lead late in the second. St. Joe went almost four minutes without a point, before Jared Demara connected on a deep 3-pointer to close the gap to one point and Ian Harvey Williams had a steal and basket to put the Wildcats up 29-28 at the half.


Harvey Williams finished the game with 10 points, eight in the second half when St. Joe controlled the tempo of the game, using pressure to force several Millville turnovers and spark an 11-0 third quarter run that put the Wildcats in control.


“Ian had a great game for us. He came off the bench and gave us a lift when we needed it badly,” Rodio said.


Another player who helped off the bench for the Wildcats was senior Myles Solomon, who gave St. Joe a presence inside at both ends of the floor.


Solomon only scored two points in the game, but had eight rebounds, blocked three shots and had two assists to go with a key steal late in the third quarter. He also took a charge in the fourth quarter that helped take some late momentum away from the Thunderbolts.


“I’m so happy for Myles. He does everything the right way, in school and out and it translates on the court. He was a starter when the season started and his playing time has gone down but he never complains. He went out tonight and did all the little things we needed him to do to help us win,” Rodio said.


Leading 40-28 heading into the fourth quarter, St. Joe turned to Prevard and Harvey Williams, who combined for eight points in the period as the Wildcats closed on a 16-4 run. All Millville’s second-half points, and there were only four, came from the foul line in the fourth quarter.


“We talked at the beginning of the season about what might happen if we ever put it all together and I think in the second half tonight, we started to see that, see how good we can really be,’ Rodio said.


Rodriguez led St. Joe with 21 points while Prevard added 11 in the win.


The victory sends St. Joseph into the semifinals on February 23 against Mainland. The eighth-seeded Mustangs upset top seed Egg Harbor Twp. 50-38 last week. It was the first time in the 10-year history of the CAL tournament that a top seed lost in the quarterfinals.


St. Joseph beat Mainland twice this season, but Rodio knows the next matchup won’t be easy.


“Mainland is a very dangerous team. They played us tough twice this year and we know what to expect. Hopefully, we’ll keep playing well,” Rodio said.


In the other semifinal, second seeded St. Augustine Prep meets sixth-seeded Holy Spirit. Both games are at Millville High School beginning at 5 p.m.


In other action last week, St. Joseph topped Salem 72-51. The Wildcats had a large lead at the half, but Salem closed to within four points before St. Joe pulled away in the fourth quarter.


Prevard scored 26 to lead the Wildcats, while Rodriguez added 16 and Qiani Bowens had 11 in the win.


Also last week, St. Joseph earned the second seed in the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs. The Wildcats received an opening round bye and will host either Holy Cross or Calvary Christian on March 4.