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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joe rallies past Doane Academy

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. St. Joseph’s Adrian Smith brings the ball up the court during last week’s South Jersey Non-Public B playoff game against Moorestown Friends.

BUENA—Late in the third quarter of last week’s South Jersey Non-Public B quarterfinal game, St. Joseph Academy boys basketball coach Paul Rodio was concerned.

His fourth-seeded Wildcats trailed 12th seed Doane Academy 55-40 and were in trouble.

“I really thought we were dead in the water,” Rodio said.

The Spartans had used a 12-0 run to open the third quarter and overcome a 3-point halftime deficit to take control of what had to that point been a close game.

St. Joe had trouble dealing with Doane’s strong inside play, as the Spartans two forwards, Donne Hawii Midamba and Elijah Satchell were controlling the game at both ends of the floor.

“Their bigs gave us a lot of trouble. I’m just glad most of the foul calls went our way,” Rodio said.

St. Joe was a huge beneficiary of the official’s whistles on the night, making 45 trips to the foul line against just 12 attempts for Doane Academy.

The Wildcats scored 38 points from the line, including 19 in the fourth quarter when St. Joe was able to rally for the win.

Free throws helped St. Joseph take a 36-33 halftime lead, as the Wildcats converted 18 times from the line, including three times when a player was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Shamar Cox kept the Wildcats in the game in the second quarter, sinking two field goals, including a 3-pointer, and converting all seven of his free throws.

“He [Cox] really stepped up for us tonight. They were doing a good job of keeping Devon [Theophile] from scoring inside, and Shamar was able to penetrate, score and get to the line,” Rodio said.

Mike Evans hit three 3-point shots early in the third quarter, as the Spartans defensive pressure forced several St. Joseph turnovers that led to easy transition points for Doane Academy and a 12-0 run that gave them a 45-36 lead. That advantage swelled to 15 points late in the period, setting the stage for a Wildcats comeback.

With several Doane players in foul trouble, St. Joseph attacked the basket both with penetration from its guards that led to free throws and easy layups.

Doane Academy was able to hold a slim lead late into the fourth quarter, but with 2:27 remaining, St. Joe pulled ahead 69-68 on a Cox free throw.

The shot capped a rally that saw the Wildcats score 29 fourth quarter points to overcome an 11-point deficit to start the final period.

After Cox’s free throw, St. Joseph never trailed again, closing out the win at the foul line where Arnaldo Rodriguez, Cox and Adrian Smith were able to convert to keep Doane Academy from fighting its way back into the game.

“That was a great win for our program. To be down 15 or 16 at one point and come all the way back to beat a good team in the playoffs shows a lot of grit and fight. It’s kind of how our season has gone. Whenever we’ve been down and people maybe count us out, we respond, pick ourselves up and win” Rodio said.

Theophile led St. Joe with 25 points and 20 rebounds, while Rodriguez and Cox each added 23 points.

The victory sent St. Joseph into the semifinals on February 27 at top-seeded St. Rose, one of the highest-ranked teams in the state.

“We were on the ropes, easily could have lost this game and now we’re one win from a South Jersey championship game. I’ve told our kids all year to have faith and believe and great things will happen for us. It hasn’t been easy, but despite all the adversity and what we’ve been through, the ups and downs, we’re right where we want to be,” Rodio said.

The Wildcats opened the playoffs with an 85-45 win against Moorestown Friends. St. Joe took an early 23-9 lead and was able to use the 3-point shot to control the action for four quarters.

Junior guard Jason Umosella connected on seven 3-point shots and finished the game with a career-high 26 points. Jared Demara added four 3-pointers and scored 12 in the win, adding 10 blocked shots. Rodriguez added 12 and Theophile had a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

St. Joe’s game against St. Rose ended too late for this edition. A win would send the Wildcats into the South Jersey Non-Public B finals against the winner of Ranney and Bishop Eustace on March 1.


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