Underdog status doesn’t keep St. Joseph boys basketball team from aiming high

Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 3:46 PM

Charlie Ross hopes to be a central figure in St. Joseph boys basketball’s attempt this season to return to the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

The only player back with varsity experience from last year’s Spartans squad which went o 8-14 overall and 2-8 in Section 3-A, Ross said he sees potential for good things from a group of players hungry for wins while excited to gain experience in varsity games.

“I know that we’re coming into this season as underdogs,” said Ross, a point guard, a co-captain, and one of three seniors on the 12-player team.

“Lack of experience is an issue, but, with the new coaching staff and how things have been run recently, it’s been incredible how much growth we’ve had and skill we’ve developed. I think everyone will see that once the season starts.”

With only 12 on the roster, Ross knows everyone will be called upon to contribute and make a turnaround possible.

“Whatever coach (Logan Acri) says, I stand behind,” said Ross, who shares captain duties with 6-foot-3 senior forward Cole Spencer. Forward Noah Cooper is the third senior on the roster.

“He’s come in and done an amazing job. He told us up front what he expects out of us. We understand it will take a team effort. Everyone has to expect to be ready to play and be ready to get it done. If we are to succeed, that is how it has to be done.”

Acri came on board in place of Hart Coleman, who served the St. Joseph boys program for four seasons starting in 2019.

A Red Land High School graduate in Eastern Pa., Acri graduated with degrees from Penn State and Northeastern universities. He has extensive travel basketball coaching experience, as well as high school coaching experience as an assistant on varsity staffs at his alma mater and Susquenita High School near Harrisburg.

“I think the game plan changed as we went through the summer and fall and I got to know the guys more,” Acri said.

“That’s only natural as you gain a better understanding. My biggest thing is building a winning culture and setting a standard. I want them to understand the expectations, and they are high. That is where I want them to live all the time. I want them to have high expectations and work hard all the time to meet them.”

Spencer and junior guards Anthony Zavolta, Gabe Maltese and Dylan Ferrante, Acri said, are expected to play big roles.

“Over the summer and in the summer league, we were just trying to establish a good foundation and get better,” Acri said.

“We were challenged facing such good competition. We weren’t too worried about the scoreboard. There were and are lessons to be learned with such a young and inexperienced group. Now, we are looking to fine-tune some things. We’re finding our way so we can be in the best position to compete.”

Acri said Ross, who averaged five points a game as a starter last year, has established himself as a team leader in actions and words.

“We’re looking for who will put points on the board and things like that,” Acri said.

“Those younger guys who will be stepping in the lineup have big shoes to fill. I think this team can be fast. We’re guard-heavy, so we’re going to try to run at teams and see what we can do.”

St. Joseph again will battle in a section that includes defending WPIAL champion Imani Christian, as well as playoff qualifiers Aquinas Academy, Summit Academy and Neighborhood Academy.

Neighborhood Academy made the WPIAL quarterfinals last year and earned a spot in the PIAA tournament.

St. Joseph kicks off the season next Friday with its tip-off tournament against Winchester Thurston. West Shamokin and Indiana also will be part of the two-day event.

“We’ve just been working our tails off to get ready,” Acri said.

“We have a small squad, so everyone will have that chance to play. Everyone played equal minutes in summer league games. They’ve all bought into that. They all understand they have something to offer.”

St. Joseph boys basketball at a glance

Coach: Logan Acri

Last year’s record: 8-14 (2-8 Section 3-A)

Returning starter: Charlie Ross (Sr., PG)

Top newcomers: Gabe Maltese (Jr., G), Anthony Zavolta (Jr., G), Cole Spencer (Sr., F), Dylan Ferrante (Jr., G)

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.


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