• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph blasts Atlantic City


St. Joseph’s Ian Harvey-Williams leaps for a dunk during the Wildcats’ season-opening victory against Atlantic City last weekend. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

OCEAN CITY—After spending his first two seasons at St. Joseph Academy coming off the bench, Arnaldo Rodriguez made the most of his first season-opening start, scoring a team-high 15 points as the Wildcats routed Atlantic City 77-34 at the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend on December 18.


“He [Rodriguez] is a kid who’s waited for his turn. He showed us some glimpses last year of how good he could be, and this year I think he’s going to be a huge player for us,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.


Rodriguez and senior Majid Abdur-Rahim, another player who has come off the bench for the Wildcats throughout his career, led a balanced offensive attack for St. Joe, which had 11 players score in the win.


“Arnaldo [Rodriguez] and Majid [Abdur-Rahim], they’re examples of why you have to stick it out. I mean, those kids could have left the program, but they stayed and now all the work is paying off for them,” Rodio said.


Rodriguez nailed an early 3-pointer and Abdur-Rahim scored eight of his 14 points in the first quarter as St. Joseph built a 26-6 lead.


Using a full court press that created turnovers and easy baskets throughout the first half, the Wildcats later used a 21-0 run to take an enormous 47-14 lead at the half.


“That’s what we want to do, control the pace. I think we did that tonight. Atlantic City is kind of down a little, but we were able to force turnovers and run,” Rodio said.


Leading the way for St. Joe were Rodriguez and Abdur-Rahim. Rodriguez added eight second-quarter points and Abdur-Rahim added three during the run that broke the game open.


“It felt good to win. Coach [Rodio] trusts me with the ball and I was confident I could make shots,” Rodriguez said.


St. Joseph continued to hit shots in the second half, as Ian Harvey-Williams scored seven of his 13 points in the last two periods.


Harvey-Williams is one of several new players on the roster for Rodio this season.


“This win was big for us. I wanted to see how we were going to respond with a brand new team. I didn’t know what to expect, if we were going to be sloppy or ready to go. We just started practicing a month ago and we’re meshing and already showing what we can be. I’m very excited for this season,” Rodio said.


Joining Harvey-Williams are Jared DeMara, who scored seven points and added three rebounds in his Wildcats’ debut, and Quiani Bowens, who handled the ball well, scored six points and had an assist.


“Those kids, DeMara, Bowens, Jahmeer Cartagena are going to help us so much. Ian [Harvey-Williams] showed what he can do tonight, he flies to the basket,” Rodio said.


The added depth has led Rodio to be both confident and concerned about his team.


“We’re very deep. I worry that we’ll beat ourselves if we get too sloppy. We had some of that tonight, missed layups, missed free throws. I think it’s a complete team. I don’t think we have a huge scorer, but I think we have seven or eight players who all can balance it out. When we’re running our stuff, we’re tough. We were in zone for 75 percent of the game, we didn’t really show much and when we get going, it’ll be tough for teams to scout us,” Rodio said.


Earlier this week, St. Joseph played at Cedar Creek. The Wildcats host Holy Spirit on December 22 at 7 p.m. at Hammonton Middle School.