• Dan Russoman

Wildcats fall in semifinals


St. Joseph’s Qiani Bowens (3) shoots over Ranney’s Taheen Braswell during last week’s South Jersey Non-Public B semifinal game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

BUENA—A sometimes tumultuous season came to an end for the St. Joseph Academy boys basketball team last week, as the Wildcats were ousted from the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs with a 67-43 semifinal loss to Ranney at Buena Regional High School.


St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio has often described this season as “chaotic,” and that’s how the Wildcats played last week while searching for their first trip to a sectional final since 1987.


“I think everything that could have gone wrong for us did tonight. But that’s kind of how our season has been. Sometimes we play very well and other times we fall into that pattern of just too many mistakes. You can’t play sloppy against a team like Ranney; they’re just too good for us to miss shots, miss open layups and turn the ball over as much as we did,” Rodio said.


Shots didn’t fall for St. Joe in last week’s game, especially in the first quarter when Ranney was able to take advantage of Wildcats’ turnovers and misses to jump out to a 16-4 lead.


“We dug ourselves a really deep hole and then didn’t play well enough to pull out of it,” Rodio said.


The shots began to fall for St. Joe in the second quarter, as Jahmeer Cartagena and Miles Solomon led a run that saw the Wildcats fight back into the game before Drew Buck’s 3-pointer and Taheen Braswell’s two free throws gave Ranney a 32-14 halftime lead.


“Everything we prepared for didn’t go our way. We just made too many mistakes,” Rodio said.


In the third period, Devon Theophile played well inside, grabbing five rebounds and scoring eight points as St. Joe was able to pull to within 11 points of Ranney.


Qiani Bowens added two baskets and Ja’son Prevard added a layup for the Wildcats.


Ranney did well controlling both Prevard and Arnaldo Rodriguez, St. Joe’s two top scoring threats.


“They [Ranney] did a great job defending Ja’son tonight. He was frustrated. We couldn’t get many good looks at the basket and when we did, we missed shots. It was kind of a microcosm of our season. That’s not always a bad thing, like the last game when you saw how great we can be, but tonight we saw the ugly side of our season. Missed layups, missed free throws, open looks and we can’t make a shot,” Rodio said.


The fourth quarter saw St. Joe continue to close the gap but Ranney always had an answer and the Wildcats were never able to trim the deficit below 10 points.


“Every time we were close, they came back. I felt like if we could make it a two or three possession game we might have had a chance, but they never let us back in,” Rodio said.


Prevard led St. Joe with 10 points in his final game as a Wildcat, while Theophile added eight and Rodriguez finished with six in the loss.


“This one hurts. It’s tough. These are the kind of games that we need to win to get to where we want the program to be. But give Ranney credit. They’re a great team with a great coach and they do the little things you have to do to win these kind of games. That’s a great program; they won the Tournament of Champions a few years ago. They’re what we want to be,” Rodio said.


Last week’s loss forces Rodio and his staff to look ahead to next season, one that the Wildcats hope will be even better than this year.


“The positive we take from this, I think, is that we’re consistently competitive in these type games. We’re consistently expected to maybe take that next step and I think next year, we can’t miss these kind of opportunities. We’re going to fight to get back here and whatever we have to do,” Rodio said.