ELMWOOD PARK, NJ -- Redemption. 

A word that would define the championship game for Corpus Christi’s fifth and sixth grade boys basketball team.

The Cougars had faced St. John’s (Hillsdale) four previous times: two times in the regular season, once in the Christmas tournament, and in last year’s championship game. All games were close, but still losses. The championship game by only two points.

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But this year’s championship game the Cougars got their redemption, coming back in the fourth quarter for a 30 - 28 win to take the Group 4 PSBL National Division Championship.

“St. John’s (Hillsdale) is an excellent team that are well coached and never give up,” said Cougars head coach John Spinosa.

The Cougars were down by one point at the end of the third quarter, but managed to build an eight point lead during the final quarter. 

Spinosa “knew St. John’s wouldn’t quit and mounted a comeback.” He said defense and success from the foul line at the end of the game kept the team on top. 

“We made our last defensive stop, defending their last shot with less than 10 seconds on the clock,” he said. “We shot the ball well, but our defense won the games.”

The Cougars made it to the championship game with wins over sixth seed St. Joseph (Bogota), and second seed Queen of Peace, who beat them twice during the regular season.

The regular season set the stage for the playoffs. Spinosa explained the team moved up two Divisions from last year, “so we knew and expected it to be a tough season with great competition.” They finished with a record of 11-7, and third seed for the playoffs.

Spinosa said there are several things that make him proud of this team.

“Everyone contributed. Every player on the team scored and committed a foul during the year,” he said. 

He also acknowledged  that there was a “great group of parents supporting the boys.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of coaching many of these boys in basketball since they were in first  grade.  I’ve been able to see them grow and hopefully continue. They acted and played like a team.”

“They exceeded my expectations”

The team included Evan Werner,  Brett Spinosa, Donovan Auriemma, Frank Billings, Joseph Byrne, Dante Lamantea, Ronik Gidwani, Rafael Flores, Christopher Ronayne, Tristan Sery, Rocco D’Amico, and Juan Mendoza. Head Coach: John Spinosa, assisted by Jake Spinosa.


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