St. Joseph boys target return to playoffs despite loss of top scorer

Sunday, December 5, 2021 | 5:13 PM

Those who followed St. Joseph boys basketball the past four years were treated by Andrew Sullivan to some high-scoring performances, but his 1,000-plus point career ended last season.

The challenge for the Spartans this winter is filling the vacuum of scoring Sullivan leaves behind.

St. Joseph coach Hart Coleman feels like his group can do that by committee and has a trio of experienced seniors in Rylan Zale, Anthony Kuhns, Trevor Greenwald and a transfer in Jimmy Giannetta, to spearhead that effort.

“The biggest part is replacing Andrew, because he was a significant part of our scoring. We’re counting on everybody to raise their abilities this year and pick up the pace so we can replace what he meant to the team. I believe we have a good nucleus and good leadership coming into a new year.”

The Spartans made the WPIAL playoffs last year after a rare miss in 2019-20. Even though it was an open tournament, they would’ve qualified regardless with a third-place finish in Section 3-A. They received a forfeit win over Avella in the opening round before falling to eventual WPIAL champ Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals.

Zale, Kuhns and Greenwald all started last year.

Giannetta, a junior, transferred from Central Catholic and is expected start at point guard.

“We’re happy to have him,” Coleman said. “He’s already made a significant impact to the team through open gyms and in practices over the last week.”

Juniors Ethan Zale, Rylan’s younger brother, Quinn Stefaniak, Damian Moore and senior Will Mason are also slated to see playing time.

Regardless of who’s on the floor they are all expected to bring effort, energy and enthusiasm. Those three attributes are stressed by Coleman at practices.

“Our mantra this year is for everyone to carry their own weight. That means everyone has to do their part whether it be scoring or on the defensive end.”

St. Joseph will host its annual tip-off tournament Dec. 10-11. The Spartans play Obama Academy in the opener. Norwin and Propel Braddock Hills face off in the other first-round game.

There’s a slight change to Section 3-A this year with Eden Christian moving to Section 1. The Spartans’ other opponents, Aquinas Academy, Imani Christian, Leechburg, Neighborhood Academy and Propel Andrew Street, remain the same.

The Spartans have their eye on getting back to the postseason and being in the mix to compete for a section championship.

“Going back to last year, one of the things that we really focused in on, even if it was an open tournament, was to make the playoffs through the front door,” Coleman said. “We wanted to make sure we were in the top four. We accomplished that particular goal. That goal stays the same this year, but we have lofty expectations, so we want to do our best to win the section. It’s been a few years since St. Joe’s has won it, and we want to reach that milestone again.”

St. Joseph boys at a glance

Coach: Hart Coleman

Last year’s record: 9-12 (5-5 Section 3-A)

Returning starters: Rylan Zale (Sr., F), Anthony Kuhns (Sr., G/F), Trevor Greenwald (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Jimmy Giannetta (Jr., G)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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