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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Wildcats roll past Holy Spirit and Williamstown

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. St. Joseph’s Arnaldo Rodriguez drives toward the basket during the Wildcats win against Holy Spirit last week. Rodriguez scored 21 points as the Wildcats won for the first time this season.

RICHLAND—Carrying an 0-3 record, their worst start during head coach Paul Rodio’s nine-season tenure, St. Joseph Academy’s boys basketball team looked desperate for a win last week against perennial Cape Atlantic League (CAL) rival Holy Spirit.

The Spartans also came into last week’s matchup searching for their initial victory of the season, and in a battle of two programs looking to kick-start their season, the Wildcats came away with a win, topping Spirit 73-57 in a game played at St. Augustine Prep.

“We were struggling, lost our first three games. We’re not used to that and we wanted to come out and make sure we got a win tonight,” St. Joseph senior Arnaldo Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez wasn’t around the last time the Wildcats lost three-straight games, and he and his teammates didn’t want to see this year’s slow start continue against a struggling Holy Spirit squad.

“Getting this win was big for us. Now, we just hope we can carry the energy the rest of the season and things will stay like they are now,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, a three-year starter for St. Joe and one of the team’s few varsity veterans, sparked last week’s win with a 21-point performance that included three 3-pointers.

“I’m just trying to do what I can to help us win. We have a really good team, we were just struggling a little,” Rodriguez said.

Last week’s game appeared to be a 3-point contest at the start, as the two teams combined to make seven shots from behind the arc in the first quarter.

Jared Demara nailed two from 3-point land in the game’s first eight minutes, helping St. Joseph sprint out to a 29-18 first-quarter lead.

The Wildcats pushed the pace throughout the first half, using pressure defense and the fast break to create turnovers and early points.

“That’s what we like to do, get out and run, force mistakes” Rodriguez said.

Freshman Will Spross scored six of his 10 points during the early run, and in the second quarter, Rodriguez and Shamar Cox hit 3-pointer to help give the Wildcats a 45-27 halftime lead.

Holy Spirit made things interesting, cutting St. Joe’s lead to 12 early in the third quarter, but baskets from Rodriguez, Amari Stolks and Devon Theophile kept the Wildcats in control.

Theophile finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Demara added 14 points, Spross had 10 and Cox finished with eight as the Wildcats featured a balanced offensive attack.

The win allowed St. Joe to avoid an 0-4 start and match the team’s longest losing streak since Rodio took over as head coach in 2014.

Two nights later, playing at Williamstown, St. Joseph made it two-in-a-row with a 65-48 win against the host Braves.

This game started slowly, as the teams were tied 10-10 headed into the second quarter where the Wildcats broke it open with a 23-10 run.

Theophile paced St. Joe, turning in his best all-around game of the season, scoring 24 points and adding 20 rebounds. Rodriguez added 15, Demara had nine and Cox and Spross each chipped in with seven points in the win.

Earlier this week, St. Joseph played at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in Wildwood against Bishop Eustace Prep. That game ended too late for this edition. The Wildcats play again at the Classic on December 28, in either the championship or consolation game of their bracket.


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