• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph boys stay undefeated


St. Joseph's Marcus Pierce, left, looks to pass around Millville defender Calem Bowman, right, early in last week's game. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

MILLVILLE—St. Joseph Academy boys basketball coach Paul Rodio entered the 2021 season with high expectations for his team.


With no state playoffs this season, Rodio is calling each game on the schedule a “championship game.”


If that’s the case, then last week the Wildcats added two more titles to their 2021 resume, defeating both Buena and Millville to remain unbeaten for the season.


“I told our kids before the season started that every game is a championship game for us. We were ranked very high in South Jersey to start the season and we’ve been moving up in South Jersey and in the state rankings, but we’re not satisfied, we want more,” Rodio said.


Rodio was far less than satisfied by his team’s play in a 55-40 win at Millville on February 12, a game where the Wildcats were sloppy with the ball and made too many bad decisions on the offensive end.


“It isn’t always pretty, but it’s a win. I was disappointed with how we played. We didn’t protect the ball and kind of slipped back into that selfish play that we showed earlier in the season. I thought we were past that, but it looks like we’re not,” Rodio said.


St. Joe rushed several shots and was impatient in its half court offense, allowing Millville to rally late and make the game closer than it needed to be.


“When you don’t care and don’t play as a team, that’s what happens. We cannot play like that against good teams,” Rodio said.


Marcus Pierce scored eight of his team-high 17 points in the first quarter, but turnovers allowed Millville to hang around as the Wildcats held a 10-9 lead at the end of the period.


Millville slowed Pierce down in the second quarter, holding him scoreless, but Antonio Sydnor hit a pair of 3-pointers and Arnaldo Rodriguez added five points to spark an 18-10 run that put the Wildcats up 28-19 at halftime.


In the third quarter, Jordan Stafford was able to drive to the basket, generating six points, including four from the foul line, as St. Joe maintained a double-digit advantage. Millville closed the gap to 10 midway through the fourth quarter, but Pierce, Dom Thomas and Ja’son Prevard hit shots to close out the win.


In addition to Pierce’s 17 points, Stafford and Rodriguez each added 11.


The win at Millville came on the heels of an 81-35 blowout at Buena on February 9. St. Joe grabbed a big lead early in the game and never looked back, cruising past an overmatched Buena squad.


Stafford scored 16 points to lead the Wildcats, while Thomas added 14, Pierce had 11 and Sydnor chipped in with 10.


The Wildcats’ game at Bridgeton last week was postponed and played on February 15. That game and one the next night at Hammonton, ended too late for this edition.


St. Joseph visits St. Augustine Prep on February 18 at 6 p.m. The Wildcats won the first matchup of the season against the Hermits in a clash of two of the top-rated teams in the region.


“That one [the win against the Prep] was huge for us. It was a tough game and I’m sure the next one will be, too. They won’t want to lose to us twice in the same season,” Rodio said.