• Dan Russoman

St. Joe rallies for win


St. Joseph’s Jared Demara (left) moves past Cedar Creek’s Sean Snyder during last week’s game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

BURLINGTON TWP.—St. Joseph Academy boys basketball coach Paul Rodio often tells his team that its toughest opponent is itself.


The Wildcats are prone to stretches of sloppy play, sometimes looking like they aren’t completely interested in the game they’re playing.


That was the case in the first half of last week’s game at Burlington Twp. as the Wildcats fell behind the host Falcons 26-15 at halftime before rallying for a 49-41 victory.


“I tore into them at halftime,” Rodio said.


“We weren’t playing well and I got caught up in the moment. I went in at halftime and laid into them a little bit. We had no focus in the first half and I let some guys know about it. To their credit, they responded with a much better effort in the second half,” Rodio said.


Among the players Rodio targeted during his halftime rant were senior Ja’son Prevard and junior Devon Theophile.


Prevard scored 16 points and had four assists in the win, while Theophile added four rebounds and four blocks in the second half.


“We need Ja’son to play well every night. He’s our leader. I let him and Devon hear it at halftime. Devon, when he puts it all together, he’s one of the best players in South Jersey. He never backs down. He can be a force for us,” Rodio said.


Along with Prevard and Theophile, junior guard Arnaldo Rodriguez led St. Joe’s comeback,

Rodriguez scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half, including a bucket with 28 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game. His 3-pointer with 4:15 remaining in the game put St. Joe ahead for good.


“He [Rodriguez] has been clutch for us since his freshman year. He’s hit some big shots for us. He was one of the guys I was all over at halftime and he responded,” Rodio said.


Adding to St. Joe’s comeback was Qiani Bowens, who came off the bench to score eight of his 10 points in the second half.


More focused after their coach’s outburst at the half, the Wildcats fought back with a 16-3 run to open the third quarter. Burlington Twp. led 39-37 in the fourth quarter before Rodriguez’s 3-pointer put St. Joe in front for good, as his basket led to a 12-2 run that closed out the game.


“They listened to every call down the stretch, they did everything we called, every trap, every offensive play. Our kids fought,” Rodio said.


The win was the Wildcats fourth-straight and kept alive for the top seed in the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs.


“This is a different kind of team for us. We have a lot of new players and we’re still figuring out how all the pieces fit together. Our kids have been very resilient. I think our chemistry is building. A win like this might give us the jolt we need. Burlington Twp. is a very good team, they’re intimidating. I blasted them at halftime because the effort wasn’t there. We need the intensity [we had in the second half] all the time to be great,” Rodio said.


The win at Burlington Twp. came on the heels of a 49-40 win against Cedar Creek.


The Wildcats opened slowly in the matchup, leading 23-18 at the half and 36-31 heading into the fourth quarter before Rodtiguez’s 3-pointer sparked a late run that gave St. Joe the win.


“We kind of fell asleep for a while, but we’ll take the win,” Rodio said.


Rodriguez led St. Joseph with 14 points in the victory, while Prevard added seven and Ian Harvey Williams had nine.


Earlier this week, St. Joseph played at Mainland but that game ended too late for this edition. On February 3, the Wildcats visit rival Hammonton at 5:30 p.m.