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St. Joseph's CYO Basketball Opens Season with Great Wins

Mike Pirone of the Varsity White 7th Grade Team takes the opening tip against St. Agnes as Max Larson (32), Danny Guarnieri (53) and Nicholas Alexander (5) look on. Credits: Gregory Dawkins
Alison Leibensperger calmly knocks down two free throws to tie the game in the 4th quarter against St. Agnes. Campbell Connell (l) and Zoe MacWhannell (r) look for a rebound. Credits: Marlowe Liebensperger

St. Joseph's CYO basketball season kicked off this past weekend with 22 teams playing games. Here are some of the highlights of the weekend. 

The 3rd grade Celtics had a victorious first game at St Agnes in Clark NJ. Their scoring was turned in by many players like Jake Wilkes, Eddy Zamara and Ben Cuomo. In addition, the defensive efforts by Gabe May and Miles Simon helped the team keep the lead from start to finish. Although the St. Agnes team played hard and had their chances, the 12-4 score was a balanced effort and a great way to tip off the season.

The St. Joseph 3rd grade boys Chamberlin team played well despite a couple of tough losses this weekend. The Saturday game saw the Celtics come back against St. Helens after being down four late in the fourth quarter on a pair of baskets by Gavin Lubomski. Although they lost by one in OT (16-15) it was a great effort for the first game, led by Lubomski and Amsterdam Knox with great guard play from Lachlan Wallace and Al Agnis.

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On Sunday the Celtics again caught fire in the fourth quarter, chipping away at a big deficit and out scoring Holy Trinity 8-0 in the last period, led by Fitz Chamberlin and Liam Peterson with some great rebounding from Gabriel Umbao.  The Celtics fell 16-11, but will look to bounce back next weekend.

The JV Girls Black division had a great opening weekend, winning two games in front of their home crowd. In their first game on Saturday, they won against St. Helens 22-6. With the first quarter ending tied 4-4, the Celtics tightened up the defense and held St. Helens scoreless over the next two quarters.The aggressive defense was led by Katie Callahan and Zoe MacWhannell. The Celtics dominated the boards with Caitlin Canal pulling down big rebounds. Campbell Connell, Alison Leibensperger, Rebecca Noll, and Grace Roselle all contributed to the scoring.

In their second game, the Celtics started sluggish and had to come from behind to capture a hard-fought, physical win 12-8 against St. Agnes.  After trailing 8-4 early in the 4th quarter, the Celtics scored the last of 8 points of the game to come out on top. Alison Leibensperger's 6 free throws in the final quarter were key to the comeback.The Celtics extended its defense in the 2nd half with Alayna Agnes, Katie Callahan, Izzy Knox and Campbell Connell coming up with big steals. Caitlin Canal, Zoe MacWhannell, and Rebecca Noll were a rebounding force, owning the boards which proved to swing the game in the Celtics favor. The Celtics return to action next Saturday, December 10 to play another home game against Koinonia Academy.

On Sunday, the Celtics prevailed in a wild overtime thriller, defeating St. Agnes 35-30.  Pirone again led the Celtics with 22 points.  Nicholas Franklin and Brendan Dawkins each had 5 and Franklin contributed several key plays down the stretch including a driving layup and a critical steal.  Danny Guarnieri added 3 points and also contributed 9 rebounds.

The JV White 5th Grade boys team kicked off league play with a convincing 38-21 victory over St. Theresa of Summit.  The Celtics led by a point at halftime, but their full court pressure defense fueled a 17-4 run in the 3rd quarter to break the game open.  Six Celtics tallied points in a well-rounded effort.  Chris Severe and Flynn Larson each had 9 and Kieran Dawkins (7), Luke Davenport (4), Harrison Zabik (4) and Jerry Browne (4) rounded out the scoring in the victory.

The JV Blue fifth grade boys team lost their first game of the season 19-10, but once the players settled in, they won the second half 7-. The defense played tough and held the other team to 1 bucket in the second half. Leading scorers were Riley Walsman and Lincoln Kessler with 5 points each, and Simon Meade was the team’s leading rebounder of the game.

The 6th grade Girls JV team won their opening weekend game with a decisive win, defeating St. Theresa’s 20-4. Summer Lonning led the team with 11 points, followed by Talia Baptiste with 6, and Paloma Duvergne with 3 points. The Celtics held a dominant lead the entire game with Ava Pickering and Catherine Holt creating a rebounding force for the two time returning champions. Kate Driscoll was also a defining force under the basket, and most notably stimulating a play that ended with Lonning draining a long jumper. Susanna Knutsen and Amelia Lisco created quick, strong breaks for the Celtics, including a breathtaking breakout run by Baptiste for a playbook layup. Rory Weldon and Hannah Straub both added two stellar steals respectively. Megan Driscoll had several great hustle plays to further support the Celtics’ dominance on opening day.

The Varsity White 7th Grade team picked up two league wins in the first weekend of league play.  On Saturday, all 9 Celtics scored as they cruised to a 37-24 victory over Holy Trinity Parish in Westfield.  Mike Pirone had 15 and Brendan Dawkins had 6 points to lead the way for the Celtics.  William Walsman chipped in 4 points including a breakaway layup off the opening tip.  


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