Standout players of winter
HAMMONTON—The 2021-2022 winter sports season at both local high schools was a successful one with many standout performances.
While several local athletes had strong seasons, only a few were able to be selected as The Hammonton Gazette’s Players of the Year for their respective teams.
The bowling teams at Hammonton High School were the first to see regular season action back in December and both enjoyed solid campaigns.
The Blue Devils boys team posted a 10-3-1 record and were led by Player of the Year James Colasurdo, who sported a 157.7 average and led the team with 6,622 pins this season. Colasurdo, a senior capped a stellar career at Hammonton that saw him earn four varsity letters.
On the girls side, Hammonton sported a full roster for the first time in two seasons, and one of its veterans, sophomore Emily Stanziale, is The Gazette’s Player of the Year.
Stanziale was among the most consistent scorers for the Blue Devils and totaled a team-high 5,220 pins this season, sporting a 122.7 average.
Hammonton’s indoor track teams each turned in strong performances during the winter, and for the boys, senior Connor Wright has been chosen as the Player of the Year.
Wright excelled in long jump, triple jump and high jump, becoming the first Hammonton athlete to earn berths at the Meet of Champions in three events. He broke the school long jump record, leaping more than 21 feet and was among the top jumpers in the state in each of his events.
“We’re so proud of what Connor was able to do this season. It’s been incredible to watch his development from a freshman to where he is now,” Hammonton coach Jeff Dey said.
For Hammonton’s girls track team, the Player of the Year is freshman Caitlyn Fields. Fields was the lone Blue Devils athlete to earn a trip to the Group 3 state finals and set a school record in the indoor 800-meter run (2:27.58).
On the wrestling mat, heavyweight Anthony Evangelista was the lone Hammonton wrestler to earn a spot at the state finals, as he placed third in Region 8 after taking second place in District 30.
The junior finished an outstanding season with a 35-11 record.
“He [Evangelista] is a legit, big heavyweight,” Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello said.
“Anthony has really grown as a wrestler. As a freshman, he was smaller, but he’s worked hard and earned it. He’s one of the best around,” Mauriello said.
Evangelista was pleased with his season and is focused on next winter.
“It was great to go to states, but I still have some work to do,” he said.
At St. Joseph, another heavyweight earned Player of the Year honors: senior Bryan Butkus.
Butkus entered the season focused on reaching the state championships, but an injury at Region 8 kept him off the medal stand.
In the end, he posted a 31-6 record and won the District 30 championship.
St. Joseph’s girls basketball team almost didn’t have a season in 2022, but the Wildcats were able to put together a small roster that turned in a 4-6 record this season.
Leading the way for an inexperienced Wildcats team was sophomore Cassidy Perri, who averaged almost 20 points per game.
“I’m just happy we were able to have a season. We didn’t have many experienced players, so I tried to be a leader for the team,” Perri said.
Coach Ryan Staiger agreed.
“It was great for us to have someone like Cass on the floor, a player who knows the game and that I was able to lean on a little to help the other girls learn,” Staiger said.
For Hammonton High School’s girls basketball team, experience wasn’t an issue, and the Blue Devils’ Player of the Year, junior Emma Peretti, turned in a strong performance in her third varsity season.
Peretti ranked among the region’s leaders in scoring (19.6 points per game) and rebounding (16.0). Late in the season, she passed the 1,000-point mark for her career. The strong play earned Peretti both All-Cape Atlantic League and All-South Jersey honors.
“Emma is a great player. I thought she was easily one of the best in South Jersey and she’s our leader, on and off the court,” Hammonton coach Michael Velardi said.
Hammonton’s boys basketball team won 11 games during the season and was in the hunt for a berth in the Cape Atlantic League playoffs. Several Blue Devils had excellent seasons, but the team’s most consistent performer was its Player of the Year, freshman guard Kenny Smith.
Smith was a starter from the first game of the season and averaged 10.7 points per game while leading the team in assists. Also a solid rebounder, he helped lead the Blue Devils to several big wins, including one against rival St. Joseph.
“Kenny came in and was a leader from day one. He never played like a freshman and was a leader for us. He helped us win some big games and he’s only going to get better,” Hammonton coach Joe Martino said.
The Gazette’s final Player of the Year for the winter season is St. Joseph senior Ja’son Prevard.
Prevard led the Wildcats to both the CAL and South Jersey Non-Public B semifinals, leading St. Joe in scoring (16.3 points per game) while averaging more than six rebounds and five assists per game.
He was one of the area’s top all-around players.
“Ja’son meant so much to us this year. He’s had his ups and downs, but he was our leader,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said.