Last Friday, the St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy boys’ basketball team made the trip to Carson Long Military Academy to play in a gym from another era.
The 3-point line in the tiny venue doesn’t extend around the court — it’s cut off from the wing to the corners — and Carson Long takes advantage by utilizing a 3-2 zone defense. The students pack into the bleachers to create a tough atmosphere for opposing teams.
Carson Long coach David Comolli and St. Joseph’s coach Richard Ciambotti both referenced a classic basketball movie to describe the old gym.
“If you’ve seen ‘Hoosiers,’ that’s where we play,” Comolli said. “It’s the same exact style. If you get 50 people in there, it sounds like you got 5,000.”
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“They have the ultimate home-court advantage in Pennsylvania,” Ciambotti said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s like an old Hoosiers-type feel to the gym.”
After escaping with a three-point win over Carson Long last week, the Wolves rolled to a 70-43 win on their home floor Thursday night. St. Joseph’s shredded the Warriors’ zone and made full use of the 3-point line, knocking down 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Jack Mangene paced St. Joseph’s (9-9) with 21 points, and Christian Chirieleison hit a team-high five 3s on his way to 19 points.
Without the 3-point line, Ciambotti said the game at Carson Long (7-4) was about toughness.
The coach said drawing up plays is useless.
“It’s like Tetris when all the lines are up too high and you have to figure out where to fit these little pieces really quickly,” Ciambotti said.
On Thursday, with more room to operate, the Wolves came out firing. Nick Shearer, knowing the Warriors would sit back in their zone, drilled an open 3 from the top of the key on the game’s first possession.
He immediately got back-to-back steals, leading to a layup and a trip to the free-throw line to score his team’s first six points. He assisted on Mangene’s jumper to push the lead to 8-0 early.
Shearer’s play sparked a 24-4 first quarter that included a pair of 3-pointers by Chirieleison.
The Wolves were ready to attack Carson Long’s zone in a completely different game.
“We get ‘em in here at home and we can do whatever we want,” said Shearer, who finished with nine points.
Chirieleison stayed hot throughout the night, knocking down another 3 in the second quarter to help the Wolves take a 44-10 lead into the break — nearly matching their total in the 53-50 victory in the previous matchup between the teams. His first five field goals all came from 3-point range.
“We always knew he could do it,” Shearer said. “We were just waiting for him to catch fire.”
Shearer hit two 3-pointers, while Matt Steyers, Blake Murray and Zane Thornburg each hit one as the Wolves enjoyed having home-court advantage against the Warriors.
“It was our friend tonight,” Ciambotti said of the 3-point line.
Notes: St. Joseph’s point guard RJ Marsh has missed the team’s last six games with a broken leg. Ciambotti said Marsh gets the cast off Friday, and the coach hopes he’ll be back in two weeks, in time for the District 6 playoffs. ... Malachi Scott added eight points for the Wolves on Thursday night. ... St. Joseph’s takes on Philipsburg-Osceola on the road Monday.