St. Joseph boys basketball captures third consecutive sectional title

St. Joseph boys basketball captures third consecutive sectional title

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St. Joseph boys basketball captures third consecutive sectional title

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JACKSON

For the first half on Wednesday the St. Joseph boys basketball team found itself in a tight game against Paul VI in the NJSIAA Non-Public South A final.

For the first 16 minutes Paul VI controlled the tempo on offense, limited St. Joseph’s transition opportunities, and forced Kentucky-bound center Karl Towns to the bench for the final 5:23 with two fouls as the teams traded leads 12 times with the Falcons only leading by three at the half.

The second half though was a different story — top-seeded St. Joseph opened the half on a 10-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way, as for the third consecutive year it defeated the second-seeded Eagles in the sectional final, 81-62, at Jackson Liberty High School.

The Falcons will vie for their third consecutive Non-Public A title on Saturday against the Don Bosco Prep-St. Peter’s Prep winner at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River at 5 p.m.

“For our team, it just seems that we always seem to have an even better third quarter than any part of the game,” Towns said. “It seems that we’re more of a second half team. We gotta try to fall out of the Kentucky curse being such a better second half team than a first half team, so if we can make that second half always our whole game then we can make great things happen.”

Towns scored nine of his team-high 26 points in the first quarter to go with 13 rebounds and five blocks as Paul VI (23-4) played physical with him down low while he was in the game.

The third quarter came and St. Joseph (27-2) was able to get out in transition and run, which was its plan all along and something it did hardly any of in the first half.

“I think a lot of what happened had to do with Karl being on the bench with two fouls,” St. Joseph coach Dave Turco said. “In the second half, Karl’s back in the game now — there’s no reason we don’t get up in passing lanes, we start to extend the pressure, he’s back there to protect the rim, and once we start doing that we get long shots, long rebounds, opens up the floor. I hope teams try to run with us because us in the open floor, we’re very tough to defend.”

Senior guard Marques Townes scored 10 of his 19 points in the third quarter while he also collected six assists and five rebounds.

“I didn’t have a great first half, I was struggling, but coach Turco just said keep rebounding, keep hustling, and it will come to you and I just played through the offense and the ball just came my way,” Townes said.

Vanderbilt-bound senior guard Wade Baldwin added 16 points and nine assists while Raven Owen added 11 points, connecting on three first half 3-pointers, as St. Joseph’s lead opened to 51-34 at the end of the third.

“We just stopped playing Paul VI basketball and started playing St. Joe’s basketball,” Towns said. “We played their game instead and we forgot how to play ours. Second half we calmed down, we gained our emotions, and we came out and we played St. Joseph basketball and we did a great job of doing that, using the transition well, and we just hit shots.”

Senior guard Jay Howard was the only Paul VI player in double figures, as he finished with a game-high 29 points.

St. Joseph has one championship down and two more to go — the Non-Public A title and the coveted Tournament of Champions trophy as it has come from a program that just two years ago hadn’t won a sectional title in more than a decade to one that’s now won three straight.

“It is amazing what this group of individuals has done,” Turco said. “Just two years (ago) I remember us jumping up and down on this floor like we actually won something — now it’s like another day at work. We’ll take our trophy, we’ll go home, but this isn’t the end-all, so they have definitely changed the program and our mindset. We’re gonna enjoy it, but we’re not gonna enjoy it until much later in the season.”

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