St. Joseph’s basketball teams ring in new year with victories

MAPLEWOOD – The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams at St. Joseph Church in Maplewood opened up 2016 with lots of basketball on the first two weekends of the New Year.  

Pee Wee Girls Red

On Jan. 3, in the Pee Wee Girls Red Division,  the Celtics won their fourth straight game to open the new year, beating Holy Trinity School by a score of 18-2 in Westfield. The Celtics played stifling interior defense led by Stephanie James, Summer Lonning, and Fiona McGowan. Leading scorers for the Celtics were Zahra Alexander (8 points), Aliyah St. Vil (4 points) and Catherine Holt (4 points).   

3rd Grade Boys  

The next weekend, most teams saw action. The 3rd Grade Boys Celtics team improved its record to a sparkling 8 wins and no losses with a pair of road victories over St. John’s in Clark. In an unusual coincidence, the Celtics prevailed by a score of 19-6 in both games. In Saturday’s contest, the Celtics unveiled their man-to-man defense which held the opponent scoreless until the fourth quarter, led by Will Walsh and Riley Donohue, who tallied 3 steals each. Flynn Larson paced the Celtics’ balanced scoring effort with 10 points, while Steven Copeland added 4 and Harrison Zabik, Luke Davenport and Thomas Campbell each added a basket. Jerry Browne’s free throw rounded out the scoring. In Sunday’s game, the Celtics again held the opponent scoreless during the first half, building an insurmountable 12-point lead. Kieran Dawkins led the way with 7 points, while Steven Copeland and Thomas Campbell added 3 each. Campbell’s points came on an old-fashioned three-point play in which he absorbed the foul and made his layup and the ensuing free throw. Harrison Zabik drained a corner jumper on a well-executed inbounds play and Luke Davenport dazzled the crowd with an 18-foot bank shot to beat the third-quarter buzzer. Alex Szczepanski and Timothy Van de North took turns at point guard in the second half and Justin Connell added a great offensive rebound and assist on a basket by Steven Copeland.

Pee Wee 4th Grade

The St. Joe’s Pee Wee 4th Grade boys’ Red team returned to the hardwood after the Christmas break to a home doubleheader with games on Saturday and Sunday.  On Saturday, the team lost a tough one to Holy Trinity/Marceau at home, 20-17. The team had a rough start and ended the first half, 15-3. The three points were all from foul shots, two by Henry Aaron and one by John Pirone.  The team came out strong after halftime and outscored Holy Trinity, 14-5, but couldn’t overcome the deficit from the first half.  Scorers for the game were Henry Aaron with 5, John Pirone and Liam Haley with 4 and Lukas Alexander and Cian O’Connor with 2. As usual, Will Spreeman was strong under the boards. Aaron Budd, Justin DeVomecourt, Declan Cavanaugh and Ian Webber played strong the whole game and played great defense that held Holy Trinity’s offense in the second half to five points.

On Sunday, the team lost to a strong All Saints team, 31-19. St. Joe’s played hard the whole game and played well as a team. John Pirone had a great game, scoring 11 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Providing the other points were Henry Aaron with 4 and Liam Haley and Justin DeVomecourt with 2. The team was strong under the boards, with Will Spreeman getting 5 rebounds, Henry Aaron and Liam Haley each with 4, and DeVomecourt, Haley, Declan Cavanaugh and Lukas Alexander with 3.  Aaron Budd had a great game at defense and foiled multiple All Saints’ scoring opportunities.

5th Grade Boys’ Green

The 5th Grade Boys’ Green Celtics defeated St. Theresa’s in Kenilworth on Saturday by a score of 22-11. The Celtics remain in first place with a record of 5 wins and no losses. The Celtics’ pressure defense, led by Nicholas Franklin’s 5 steals, forced turnovers and transition opportunities in the first half as the Celtics headed to the locker room ahead at halftime with a 14-0 lead. Six Celtics players scored in the contest, led by guards Patrick Campell (6), Brendan Dawkins (4) and Liam Laskowski (4). Michael Pirone, William Walsman and Owen Holt added a basket apiece.  Holt’s basket was the play of the day as all five Celtics on the court possessed the ball, searching for an opening in the defense before Max Larson found Holt cutting to the basket for the layup. Nicholas Alexander and Danny Guarnieri controlled the lane for the Celtics, contributing 9 rebounds between them.  

5th-6th Grade Girls

The St. Joseph’s Celtics 5th and 6th Grade Girls’ team came up just short in its quest to move into second place in Union County CYO play, losing 16-10 to St. Helen’s of Westfield over the weekend. It was a hard-fought contest throughout, with both teams playing stifling defense and clogging up the passing lanes to force errant shots from the perimeter. St. Joseph did get its offense in gear late, scoring 4 points in a row to tie the game at 10 with 2 minutes left in the game. Katie Wilkes and Neve McGowan fueled the comeback. Wilkes found a seam in the St. Helen’s defense to knock down a twisting outside shot from just inside the 3-point line. On the ensuing possession, McGowan knifed her way inside the lane to score on 10-foot jump shot. But St. Helen’s had all the answers at crunch time, and scored the last 6 points of the game by using its full-court press to force 3 straight turnovers that led to layups. Wilkes and McGowan scored 8 of the team’s 10 points, while Evelyn Calabrese chipped in with 2 points. Calabrese’s basket tied the game at 6 early in the third quarter.  With defenders draped all over, Calabrese managed to break free with a couple of hard dribbles to her right, creating just enough space to nail a 15-footer from the left baseline.     

St. Joseph received valuable contributions from a number of other players. Kathleen Wack patrolled the middle of the St. Joseph defense, grabbing several rebounds and altering a number of other St. Helen’s shots, while Maggie Callahan, Mia Hankey, and Sophia Franklin showed tremendous improvement in their ability to force St. Helen’s to take contested shots from the outside, many times outside their comfort zone.   With the loss, St. Joseph’s record dropped to 4-4 with four regular-season contests remaining.

7th Grade Boys

The 7th Grade Boys welcomed the new year with a great weekend of play,  claiming two victories and bringing their record to a perfect 7-0.

On Saturday, they traveled to St. Theresa Kenilworth and came away with a 29-16 win. Derrick Baptiste led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Matt Morales contributed 5 points, Patrick Dawkins and Harry Fardin each had 4 points, Cole Latimer had 2, Ben Sczepanski had 2 and Anthony Fuschetto rounded out the scoring with 1. James Griffis had a strong game on the boards; pulling down five rebounds to spark the Celtic break, while Ty Budd and Deven Brown also grabbed multiple rebounds and claimed several steals between them.

On Sunday, the Celtics met St. Helen’s of Westfield and won, 41-33. Again, Derrick Baptiste led the Celtics in scoring with 9 points, while Perry Reyes added 8, Colin Williams added 7, Cole Latimer had 5, and Nicholas Aaron and Harry Fardin each had 3. Matt Morales contributed 2 points and played tough defense.

The CYO basketball program serves children in grades 2-12 who are enrolled in Catholic school or in a catechism program in the Archdiocese of Newark. The St. Joseph CYO program is a joint program between St. Joseph in Maplewood and Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange.