HAMMONTON — The St. Joseph High School boys basketball team finally seized control of a frenetic game down the stretch and came away with an important victory Thursday night.
The Wildcats withstood a late Pleasantville rally and beat the Greyhounds 86-83 in a showdown between two of the top teams in the Cape-Atlantic League United Division.
Marcellus Ross scored 27 points to lead St. Joe (8-2), while Cory Blackwell and Kendall Blount each added 12. But unheralded players such as freshmen Devon Benson and Keshon Griffin made the key shots for the Wildcats during the final four minutes.
“It really was a team effort,” St. Joe coach Paul Rodio said. “Marcellus got in foul trouble and pulled himself through it. But we had guys like Ian Brown making big foul shots when the game wasn’t going his way, and you’ve got guys like Devon Benson … He’s a freshman, MVP of a Bob Hurley camp over the summer, and we’re fortunate enough to have someone like that.”
Pleasantville (8-4) overcame a late deficit as Mike Wilson and Divine Anderson each scored five points. But Benson hit a pair of foul shots and drove for a basket, and Brown sealed the victory with a pair of free throws.
Anderson had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but couldn’t get either one to fall.
“I thought they got a lot of 50-50 balls, and we didn’t,” Pleasantville coach Butch Warner said. “We turned the ball over in a couple possessions where we could have done something with it. But we didn’t get the ball. They would turn it over, it would go on the ground and roll, and they would get it back. Those little things in games like this we have to correct.”
Neither team could maintain momentum in the up-and-down, back-and-forth game. Jacob Valeus led the Greyhounds with 27 points, and Anderson scored 23.
“You’ve got to give Pleasantville credit, because that’s what Pleasantville forces you to do,” Rodio said of the game’s hurried pace. “We planned for that and tried to weather the storm. We just had too many breakdowns. At times, we went up six or seven, and we’ve got to put a stranglehold and not let it get away.”
Ross, a junior from Sicklerville, credited his teammates with pulling the game out when his shots wouldn’t fall at the end.
“Down the stretch, we just wanted to keep running, because every time we stopped in a half-court set we couldn’t score as much,” Ross said. “We just wanted to get out with the ball and get in transition. I missed some free throws, but everybody else stepped up and made their free throws, and that’s what got us the win. We played as a team at the end.”
Pleasantville led by one point after the first quarter, as Valeus scored nine of the last 11 points for the Greyhounds. But St. Joe started coming on toward the end of the quarter, taking the lead with an 11-0 run as Blount and Ross each hit 3-pointers.
Ross got hot for the Wildcats in the second quarter, but Sahmir Jones hit a pair of 3-pointers for Pleasantville, and Valeus put back his own miss to give the Greyhounds a one-point lead at halftime.
Note: Before the game, St. Joseph honored Ross, a junior, who recently scored his 1,000th career point.
Pleasantville;21 28 22 12—83
St. Joseph;19 29 24 14—86
P—Valeus 27, Anderson 25, Wilson 12, Jones 10, Growalt 4, McFadden 3.
SJ—Ross 27, Blount 12, Blackwell 12, Benson 10, Griffin 6, Enwerji 6, Umosella 4, Gonzalez 4, Brown 2.
3-pointers—Wilson (2), Jones (2), Anderson (2), McFadden P; Blackwell (2), Ross (3), Blount (2).
Records—P 8-4; SJ 8-2.