After postseason upset, St. Joseph girls eager to build

Tuesday, March 22, 2022 | 10:29 AM

While St. Joseph’s girls basketball team didn’t achieve the ultimate WPIAL prize of a district basketball title, it did pull off the win of the postseason.

And it might be a sign of things to come.

The Spartans finished the season with a 10-15 record but upset Class A’s top seed, three-time defending champion Rochester, 57-54, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

“It was fantastic,” said coach Dennis Jones. “You always hope that these things are going to happen, but when they actually happen, it’s really special, especially with my team being so young. We definitely have some skill, but being freshmen, sophomores and just one senior, it was a little unexpected.”

St. Joseph picked up a first-round win over Mapletown before pulling the stunner.

“We started jelling as a team. We finally got healthy and were able to play games consistently,” Jones said. “And we got on a run. I think we peaked against Rochester.”

Finding cohesion wasn’t easy for Jones’ team. Injuries, covid-19, and, more than anything, inexperience led to a bit of an up-and-down regular season.

“They just seemed to bond in the Mapletown game and it carried over to Rochester,” Jones said of his team, which lost to Aquinas Academy in the WPIAL semifinals and Shanksville-Stonycreek in the PIAA first round. “They believed that, if we played defense and everybody did their own job, that we’d come out on top.”

The win over the Rams, in which the Spartans rallied from down nearly 20 points, pushed St. Joseph into the semifinals for just the second time in program history but second time in five years.

It could be a springboard for the program going forward. Jones will return all but one player, senior Trinity Lockwood-Morris. St. Joseph had no juniors on the roster as well.

Julie Spinelli, a sophomore, led the team in scoring at about 14 points per game. Lockwood-Morris scored averaged about 10 and sophomore Emma Swierczewski scored about seven per game.

Spinelli is the team’s most polished player, having spent plenty of offseason time in the AAU circuit. But she’ll be far from alone going forward.

“(The sophomore group) is going to be the backbone of our team going forward.” Jones said. “Four of them have played together through grade school. They’re just really good friends and a tight knit group.”

The Spartans entered the season off a 6-15 campaign last year, which followed just four wins between the previous two seasons combined.

“The first two years were really tough,” Jones said. “We won one game and then three games. Most of the kids were volleyball players. We just didn’t have girls that wanted to play basketball. It was a great freshmen group last year, and they’re just staying together and believing in each other. And that’s half the battle.

Jones will have the benefit of having one of the biggest teams in Class A next season, with four current sophomores over 5-foot-10, including Anna Kreinbrook, who is 6-2.

Their goal, however, is to get physically stronger and better at handling the basketball through studying and understanding the game better.

Jones, meanwhile, will continue to try to work on the team’s blossoming unity.

“We’re just trying to foster that teamwork and togetherness, that family atmosphere,” he said.

“The future definitely looks bright.”


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