St. Joseph boys motivated by last year’s brush with playoffs

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Sunday, November 27, 2022 | 4:48 PM


St. Joseph coach Hart Coleman doesn’t have to look too far to find a way to motivate his group.

He can point to one game against Neighborhood Academy last February.

The Spartans led for most of the way only to see it slip away late and end in a 61-59 loss that cost them an opportunity to make the playoffs.

“It was very disappointing that we missed by one spot. We had that game won against Neighborhood Academy and gave it away, which knocked us out of a playoff spot. That’s been the motivation for us coming into this year. The guys that experienced that heartbreak have been really focused and are pushing the new players coming in to get them up to speed to prepare for what we need to do this year.”

St. Joseph finished 10-12 a year ago but has four experienced seniors returning who saw starting time last year.

That group is led by returning leading scorer and point guard Jimmy Giannetta. Ethan Zale, Quinn Stefaniak and Damian Moore are the other seniors, all of whom got spot starts a season ago.

Coleman was impressed with how all four have taken the reins as leaders from summer workouts through preseason practices.

“That’s been a benefit to me,” Coleman said. “It’s not just my voice and the other coaches’ voices at practice. They are really leading the younger guys, and those younger guys are making sure they are learning and paying attention. At the same time, I’ve given the younger guys the responsibility to push the older guys, as well, so they don’t just rest on the belief that they are ahead of them. That way, we all become a cohesive unit.”

The Spartans have added a transfer from Highlands in junior center Cole Spencer. Charlie Ross, a junior, has made strides, and Coleman said he’s in the mix for a starting role. A pair of sophomores Anthony Zavolta and Dylan Ferrante will be expected to contribute.

“We have to make sure everyone steps up,” Coleman said. “We can’t put it all on Jimmy’s shoulders. We need the other guys to carry the load, as well. If we can do that, I think we’ll be OK.”

St. Joseph will open its season Dec. 2 at the Play 4 Mae Tournament at Woodland Hills. The Spartans will host their annual tip-off tournament the following Friday and Saturday.

A new realignment cycle has brought new opponents in Section 3-A in Hillel Academy, which is making its WPIAL debut, and Summit Academy. Imani Christian, Neighborhood Academy and Aquinas Academy return to the section, while Leechburg has moved up to Class 2A.

“Our focus is on ourselves,” Coleman said. If we take care of our business, everything will fall into place. But there’s still rivalries there that we have. We want to get over the hump with Imani Christian. In the three years I’ve been here, we haven’t beaten them. It’s always a good rivalry with Aquinas Academy. It’s fun to go up against Vinnie (Cugini).”

St. Joseph boys at a glance

Coach: Hart Coleman

Last year’s record: 10-12 (3-7 Section 3-A)

Returning starters: Jimmy Giannetta (Sr., G), Ethan Zale (Sr., G), Quinn Stefaniak (Sr., F), Damian Moore (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Cole Spencer (Jr., C)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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