St. Joseph’s basketball teams enjoy fine action

MAPLEWOOD – The Maplewood/South Orange St. Joseph CYO basketball teams enjoyed fine play this past weekend.

The St. Joe’s Pee Wee Red 4th Grade boys had a tough loss on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 7, against St. Helen’s/Edwards 20-10.  A tough St. Helen’s defense limited the offense and the team went into the half down 8 to 4.  John Pirone had eight points and Henry Aaron had 2.  Justin DeVomecourt was relentless on defense and battled for position the entire game.  He lead the team in steals and rebounds.  Will Spreeman and Liam Haley were tough on the low posts on defense and caused the St. Helen’s offense to turn to their outside shots.  Lukas Alexander, Ian Webber and Cian O’Connor showed some great ball handling skills.

The St. Joe’s 5th Grade Boys White team jumped above the .500 mark with a dominating 25-9 victory over All Saints of Bayonne on Saturday, Feb. 6. Sean Kagel and Sebastian Pappas helped the squad grab the lead in the first quarter by swishing and banking long-range shots. The team’s defense was stellar from the opening tip-off.

The second quarter saw Connor Ward, who had missed much of the season with a broken wrist, put on a dribbling exhibition, weaving through the All Saints zone defense. Chibuikem “Chiboy” Onyemaechi was all over the court, diving for loose balls. Derek Mingmongkol nailed a jump shot to extend the St. Joe’s lead heading into half-time.

The team showed its athleticism in the third quarter, employing a full-court press which stymied All Saints. With Albert Konado and Malachy Meyer hounding the opposing guards, St. Joe’s shut out their opponents while scoring ten points. Veterans Callan Bauer and Jeremiah Cook filled the lanes as the game became a lay-up drill.

With a huge lead in the fourth quarter, the squad “called off the dogs” by no longer pressing All Saints. Conor Kagel did a fine job, filling in for the missing center Charlie Giannone, while Declan O’Coonnell had another great effort on the boards.

The team seems to be peaking just in time for the playoffs, which start in one week as the regular season closes over the long Presidents’ Day weekend.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, the 5th Grade Green Celtics turned in their most impressive performance of the season, knocking off a formidable opponent, Holy Trinity by a score of 36-31.  The Celtics played excellent team defense and controlled the backboards on both ends of the court and their ball handling, ball movement and shot selection led to their most efficient offensive performance of the season.  The victory moves the Celtics to within a ½ game of first place Holy Trinity with a rematch set in Westfield as the final game of the regular season next weekend.

The Celtics led most of the way, but Holy Trinity consistently battled to keep the game close.  The Celtics led by 4 at the half as Owen Holt and Miles Drayton each converted offensive rebounds for key baskets.  But Holy Trinity raced out of the locker room and tied the game within the opening seconds of the 3rd quarter.  Patrick Campbell’s excellent ball-handling and gorgeous jump shooting propelled the Celtics back into the lead and 4th quarter baskets by Danny Guarnieri (putback) and William Walsman (steal and driving layup) helped the Celtics pull away.

Mike Pirone dominated the game from his forward position, registering 14 points (including 4-5 at the FT line), 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.  Brendan Dawkins returned from a month-long absence due to injury and added 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in a well-rounded effort.  Patrick Campbell tallied 8 points and added several highlight-film worthy crossover and spin dribbles; Campbell also had 3 assists, consistently finding open teammates.  Liam Laskowski and Nicholas Franklin rotated minutes at shooting guard and consistently harassed Holy Trinity’s guards, creating several turnovers while also contributing highly efficient offensive play.

The balanced effort saw 7 of the 9 available players score in the contest and the Celtics appear to be surging heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

Hungry for a win, the St. Joseph JV Girls got back on track over the weekend, coasting to a 28-5 victory over St. James of Springfield in a Union County CYO game.  With the victory, St. Joseph improves its record to 5-6, snapping a 4-game losing streak in the process.  St. Joseph took control right from the opening tap as Sophia Franklin gathered a loose ball at mid-court and drove all the way in for a layup to give St. Joseph the early 2-0 lead.  Katie Wilkes then added a basket mid way through the first quarter, knocking down a 10-foot shot inside the lane.  Following several empty trips on offense that lasted into the 2nd-quarter, St. Joseph took control of the game by dominating the backboards. Leah Connell led the way, grabbing 8 rebounds.  Many of them came on the offensive end of the floor, leading to scoring opportunities for Kathleen Wack, who scored 4 points in the quarter and Neve McGowan, who chipped in with a basket of her own. Using her height, agility and possessing a tremendous desire to compete, McGowan finished with a game-high 10 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 steals.