• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph splits four games


Ja’son Prevard looks for a shot during last week’s win against Lower Cape May. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Playing through perhaps its toughest stretch of the season, St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team came away with a pair of wins and a pair of losses, as the Wildcats continue to search for their identity on the court.


St. Joe sandwiched wins against Camden Catholic and Lower Cape May between losses at Egg Harbor Twp. (EHT) and Paul VI last week, altering its play to an almost exclusively up-tempo style.


“We need to do something to kick start our team. We’ve been concerned the last few games at how we’ve struggled at times offensively, and as a [coaching staff] we feel like pressing on defense and trying to be more of a transition team [offensively] will help us. We switched it after the loss at EHT and it’s worked well so far,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said after the Wildcats beat both Camden Catholic and Lower Cape May.


The week began with a 68-62 loss (EHT) at Egg Harbor Twp. that cost St. Joe any chance at winning the Cape Atlantic League United Division title.


Ja’son Prevard scored nine points in the first quarter as the Wildcats built a 19-13 lead, but a pair of turnovers late in the second quarter allowed EHT to claw back to grab a 33-32 halftime lead.


“That hurt us. We had a four-point lead and then we got sloppy and gave them the momentum,” Rodio said.


Carlos Lopez, who finished with 23 points for EHT, sparked a 20-8 third quarter run for the Eagles with a pair of deep 3-pointers.


Down by 13 in the final period, St. Joe fought back as Qiani Bowens connected on three 3-point shots and scored 15 points to fuel a Wildcats comeback that closed the gap to five points with less than a minute to play.


That was as close as St. Joe would get, however, as EHT was able to hold on for a double-digit win.


Two nights later, St. Joseph went to a full-court press which created some easy scoring opportunities in a 66-56 win at Camden Catholic.


Rodio called the victory, “maybe our biggest win of the season,” a game that the Wildcats led almost from start to finish.


“We played really well. The press worked great and we controlled the game,” Rodio said.


Prevard scored a team-high 22 points, while Arnaldo Rodriguez added 17 and Bowens had 10.


Later in the week, St. Joseph avenged an overtime loss earlier in the year at Lower Cape May, dominating the Tigers for four quarters in a 79-43 win.


Once again, pressure forced turnovers that led to a balanced scoring attack for the Wildcats. Jared Demara made a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, leading a 20-12 run that put St. Joe in control. Devon Theophile added six of his team-high 18 points in the second quarter, while Demara connected on two more 3-pointers.


In the second half, St. Joe finished strong, as Rodriguez added nine points and Theophile pulled down 10 of his 17 rebounds.


The week ended with a 78-66 loss at Paul VI on February 12.


The Wildcats fell behind at the half by 12 points, 40-28 and despite some solid play in the second half, were unable to come back for a win.


St. Joe will wrap up its regular season schedule this week with two more tough games.


The Wildcats played Salem earlier this week, but that game ended too late for this edition. On February 16, St. Joe visits Moorestown at 5:15 p.m.


“It’s a brutal stretch for us. We played four tough teams in six days and have two more to go. If nothing else, no one can say we’re not battle-tested. We’ve played one of the toughest schedules in South Jersey. I hope it gets us ready for the playoffs, the CAL tournament and the state playoffs because that’s our focus, winning in the postseason,” Rodio said.