MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The St. Joseph’s CYO basketball teams enjoyed fine efforts in semifinal playoff action.
The JV Sixth Grade Green team defeated St. Helen’s 40-20 in a semifinal playoff game at St. Joseph’s to clinch the team’s second straight championship game appearance.
The Celtics wasted no time, scoring on a set play off the opening tip as Mike Pirone tipped to Max Larson, who found William Walsman streaking to the basket for a quick 2-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Celtics had built a 16-4 lead behind 4 points from Liam Laskowski, who drained two mid-range jumpers. The Celtics used precision passing and excellent ball and player movement to keep the game out of reach. Eight of the 10 Celtics players scored, led by Mike Pirone, who tallied 16 points, 7 steals and 10 rebounds. Patrick Campbell handled the ball flawlessly and added 8 points, including 4 out of 4 at the free-throw line. Danny Guarnieri had 4 points and Nicholas Alexander added a jump shot for a basket. Brendan Dawkins scored on a nifty drive through the lane and Owen Holt converted on a beautiful press-break play with passes from Liam Laskowski and Nicholas Alexander, finding Holt for a layup. Max Larson added 5 rebounds and Nicholas Franklin led the team with 4 steals.
The Fourth Grade Celtics defeated St. Helen’s 23-13 to clinch a repeat appearance in their league championship game. The Celtics trailed 8-4 at halftime as St. Helen’s suffocating defense held St. Joseph’s in check early in the game. But in the second half the Celtics’ crisp passing and unselfish play powered a 19-5 game-ending run. In the third quarter, Justin Connell sunk two free throws to give the Celtics their first lead of the contest. St. Helen’s tied the game at 11 heading into the fourth quarter. In the final 8 minutes, the Celtics employed a more aggressive defense to create turnovers and transition scoring opportunities. Key baskets in the quarter included Kieran Dawkins – who had 6 assists and 6 points – finding Flynn Larson for a beautiful wing jumper, Thomas Campbell for a textbook backdoor layup and Jerry Browne – who led all scorers with 11 points – on several perfectly executed pick-and-roll plays. Luke Davenport was the defensive star of the game, contributing 3 steals and 5 rebounds. Will Walsh added a key second-half steal and Tim Van De North added 3 rebounds. Harrison Zabik ran the point flawlessly for most of the game. Riley Donohue and Alex Szczepanski played strong defense and contributed several key hustle plays to aid the Celtics’ efforts.
The JV Blue Boys Meola team advanced to the finals on Sunday evening with a 29-23 win over St. Helen’s. The game opened with Henry Aaron driving the lane for a layup, and St. Joe’s never relinquished the lead. Foul shooting was a big factor in the game with Henry Aaron nailing four, John Pirone hitting three and Liam Haley and Declan Cavanaugh each getting one. John Pirone lead the balanced scoring with 11, Henry Aaron had 10, Liam Haley had 5, and Lukas Alexander had a bucket. Cavanaugh had one. Haley was a monster under the boards and led the team with 11 rebounds. At guard, Lukas Alexander and Aaron Budd played tough defense against a strong St. Helen’s offense. Conor Cavanaugh was aggressive at both ends of the court and Cian O’Connor set some great picks which afforded him teammates multiple scoring opportunities.
St. Joseph’s defeated St. Helen’s 10-7 in a highly competitive JV Girls semifinal matchup. Baskets were at a premium in this game, but when the Celtic offense connected they did it with teamwork and effort. Katie O’Mara and Siobhan Bracken worked the give-and-go early on to generate the Celtics’ lead. Leah Connell converted on 2 free throws late in the game. Jamie Fardin grabbed a strong offensive rebound and sank a soft right-handed hook shot for two. The Celtics’ defense was solid. Ruby Aylward and Mia Hankey worked all game to not give up baseline and Maggie Callahan and Sophia Franklin kept the pressure on the outside. The suffocating defense caused many missed baskets and St. Joseph’s inside players, Ella Mansfield and Evelyn Calabrese, played big to grab 7 rebounds apiece.