R.J. Marsh started the third quarter with a bang for St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, attacking the rim like he did in the first half and pushing his team’s lead over Bald Eagle Area to double digits.
The Wolves point guard drove baseline to open the second half and finished a tough reverse layup, before quickly adding an easy breakaway layup and a free throw. Marsh stayed aggressive throughout the game and helped set the tone for St. Joseph’s in a 70-58 win over the Eagles on Wednesday night.
Marsh finished with a game-high 23 points, while Wolves teammates Jack Mangene and Ethan Khoza added 20 and 14, respectively. All three looked to get to the rim constantly in the victory.
Marsh made that his personal goal before the game.
“That’s the R.J. I’ve been waiting for for a year now because I knew he had that in him,” SJCA coach Richard Ciambotti said.
St. Joseph’s (5-3) came out focused on starting and finishing quarters stronger after its loss to Neumann Regional last Friday. The Wolves were in control there in the second quarter before allowing Neumann Regional to make a run to pull within five points by halftime. That breakdown hurt in a three-point loss, so SJCA spent all week talking about winning the opening and final minutes in each period. The Wolves started hot behind 10 first-quarter points by Marsh and took a 23-17 lead into the second quarter.
The Eagles never found their rhythm offensively and couldn’t stop the Wolves’ drives to the basket. BEA (3-4) had been sharper on defense to start this season — a crucial part of its success in three wins — but the Eagles didn’t match the Wolves’ energy Wednesday night.
“It almost looked like we were asleep,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said of the pregame scene in his team’s locker room. “I said, ‘Come on, guys, you got to get some energy. We got to get going.’ ... For some reason, we just weren’t focused and ready. I’ll take the blame for that.”
The Eagles stuck with SJCA during the first quarter — but the Wolves seized control by the second half. Marsh provided the spark at the start of the third with his impressive reverse layup. Mangene then scored eight points in the third quarter to ensure the Wolves maintained control heading into the fourth quarter. He sliced through the BEA defense unguarded for the final layup of the third quarter to push his team ahead 52-41.
Mangene stayed active around the rim, grabbing rebounds and finishing in the paint to score 14 points in the second half.
“He’s a relentless player. I said to the JV kids: I said you guys want to talk about playing hard, you have to watch Jack play. He is special,” Ciambotti said. “He doesn’t come off the floor very often, so for Jack to be able to maintain that kind of effort level for 32 minutes is pretty incredible.”
And the Wolves didn’t let up until the final buzzer.
In the final minute, Marsh got an easy layup off of a perfectly run inbounds play to put the finishing touch on the victory for his team. The Wolves looked to attack from start to finish and added a win over BEA to their resume after knocking off Penns Valley earlier this season.
“We said at the beginning of the season: We want to dominate the county,” Marsh said. “That was one of our goals. It’s always great to have an opportunity like this against a bigger school and just come out and take it to ’em.”