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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joseph stuns St. Augustine in tight win

Dan Russoman/THG. Will Spross scored 21 points to help lead St. Joseph Academy to a win at St. Augustine Prep last week in a Cape Atlantic League matchup.

RICHLAND—In a season that has had more than its share of low moments, St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team enjoyed a high point on January 5, upsetting St. Augustine Prep 73-67 in what was perhaps the Wildcats best performance of the year.

Less than 48 hours after being embarrassed on their home floor by Wildwood Catholic (a 60-38 loss), St. Joe played well for four quarters, knocking off one of the top-ranked teams in South Jersey.

“You saw us less than 48 hours ago. Our schedule is brutal and we just kept our faith and kept believing and the biggest key, the reason we won tonight is that the game was won by our leaders,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.

Those leaders included sophomores Will Spross and Paris Kinsey, who combined for 41 points on a night that may have turned the season around for St. Joseph.

“They kept everyone together, no one was pointing fingers. We knew we were capable of this and I’m just so proud. And what’s better than to beat the best?,” Rodio said

On a night where the Wildcats needed contributions from the entire roster, they received them. Not only did Spross and Kinsey play well, senior Jason Umosella added 15 points, none bigger than a 3-pointer from the right corner midway through the fourth quarter.

Edwin Drummed had a pair of second-quarter 3-pointers that helped keep the game close and Mark Campbell and Victor Rozier contributed on the boards and defensive end of the floor.

St. Joe led 14-12 at the end of the first period, but the Prep appeared to take control in the second and led by as many as eight points late in the quarter. But Drummed stepped up and nailed two shots from beyond the arc to keep the Wildcats in the game.

The second half saw both teams make runs that looked to shift momentum before the other fought its way back. Down the stretch, St. Joe was able to convert at the line, helping to keep St. Augustine from completing its comeback effort.

“They had us. We fought, down eight and Drummed hits two big shots, Mark [Campbell] comes in and grabs some key rebounds, Will [Spross] controls the game and Umosella hits a big three. It was a collective team effort,” Rodio said.

Rodio admitted that he was concerned a few times that the game might get away from the Wildcats.

“Our kids, my worry is that we’re gonna have stretches where we struggle. But when they follow the game plan, and they did tonight, this is what we’re capable of,” he said.

That game plan includes finding the open shot, pushing the tempo and being unselfish.

“When they don’t care who gets the credit, this is what we can do,” Rodio said.

St. Joseph’s coach has spoken a lot this season about building a culture that can sustain success. Last week’s victory was a small step in that direction.

“The culture, it took a while but were setting the standard to where we can win those kind of games,” Rodio said.

Another part of the culture shift is having confidence even when other don’t.

“No one is taking us seriously. The kids know it , I know it. It’s amazing how many people want to tell me how to coach in the last couple of weeks, but through God everything is possible,” Rodio said.

Few believed St. Joe could win a game like the one at St. Augustine after the Wildcats looked awful against Wildwood Catholic, falling behind 33-10 at the half before bouncing back with a solid final two quarters in a 60-38 loss.

Despite that performance, Rodio remained confident that the game was a poor indicator of his team’s potential.

“I didn’t know when it was coming [the stronger play]. People lost their minds over the Wildwood Catholic game, and I saw us in the third [quarter] outscore them and I knew it was coming. I wouldn’t want to play us down the road and in the playoffs because we’re going to be tough to beat,” Rodio said.

Against St. Augustine, Spross scored 21 points to lead St. Joseph and Kinsey added 20. Umosella finished with 15 and Drummed had 10.

Kinsey scored 14 to lead the Wildcats in the loss to Wildwood Catholic.

Earlier this week, St. Joseph hosted Williamstown, but that game ended too late for this edition. On January 10, St. Joe hosts Middle Twp. at 7:30 p.m.


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