St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy didn’t come away with a win Friday night in the first round of the PIAA Class A Boys’ Basketball Championships, falling to Vincentian Academy 79-65.
But coach Richard Ciambotti still had a strong message for his team afterward: You belong.
The senior-laden class overcame an early season-ending injury to leading scorer RJ Marsh and still clinched their second straight berth in the state tournament. Although the team came in with lofty goals and felt disappointed after the final whistle, Ciambotti said their legacy is still something to be proud of.
“In all reality, they did it,” he said, referring the seniors. “They took the program to the level where, I said tonight, you belong. I don’t think anyone looked at us in the gym and said we didn’t belong. We’ve had two fantastic seasons.”
SJCA (19-6) watched its season end in Mt. Lebanon after it couldn’t solve an up-tempo offense with big forwards and a balanced approach. St. Joseph’s initially entered the game wanting to stop its opponent’s inside game but, after it nailed a trio of 3s in the first period, it focused more on the outside — and then paid for it on the inside.
Vincentian Academy led 21-17 after the first quarter and 40-33 at halftime. The Wolves were never dominated in a singular quarter, but getting outscored by a handful of points each period quickly added up.
Vincentian Academy (17-8) will now advance to play Elk County Catholic (26-0) on Tuesday.
“Defensively, it was just one of those things,” Ciambotti added. “It was physicality we haven’t seen all year, so hats off to them for playing a good, balanced basketball game.”
Senior Zane Thornburg ended with the best game of his career, scoring a team-high 17 points and setting the tone for the Wolves. Jack Mangene added 12 points and nine rebounds, while Brendan Scanlon had 14 and Cam Khoza netted 13. The senior starters — Ryan Peachey, Matt Steyers, Mangene, Marsh and Thornburg — helped leave St. Joseph’s better than they found it, Ciambotti said. And they stepped up after Marsh’s injury to still have an overall successful year.
“If you would’ve said with our leading scorer out at the beginning of the year that we would go 18-4 in the regular season, I don’t know if I would’ve believed that,” Ciambotti added.