St. Joseph School wins boys basketball championship
Coach David Adams warned his St. Joseph School boys basketball players not to get overwhelmed as they walked onto the floor at Central Catholic High School for the Diocese of Pittsburgh Class B Basketball Championship game.
“I told them don't go, ‘Oh boy, we're at Central Catholic! It's just a gym. Let's go do what we do,'” Adams said.
What they did was continue a streak of excellence which saw them post a 13-1 regular-season record (9-1 in section) and an undefeated postseason on the way to capturing the first boys basketball championship in the Verona school's history.
“It was a really special year for us,” said David Adams Jr., 15, one of six eighth-grade players who will be headed elsewhere after this school year. “It was just a fun, amazing year.”
The Chargers beat out Christ the Divine Teacher, of Aspinwall, 57-40, in the championship, which took place March 17.
“They just dominated,” Coach Adams said. “They were the No. 1 seed, and they lived up to it.”
St. Joseph School athletic director Robert Hensler said he is impressed with the team's performance.
“Considering that St. Joe's is a small school — we have about 150 kids — and being limited as far as the talent pool from which we can draw, I think it's a real accomplishment to go that far this year,” Hensler said.
This marks the second basketball championship that St. Joe's players have brought home in the past three years: the girls varsity team won the championship two years ago, Hensler said.
Adams said he saw a special team from the outset of this season.
“I knew I had a highly talented, tough, athletic group of kids, so I really decided to challenge them,” he said.
“I set up a bunch of scrimmages with bigger private and public schools — and we pretty much beat everybody.
“That really opened my eyes. These guys were beating teams that are supposedly bigger and better. We were matching up and competing.”
Adams said he wanted his team to become battle-tested, even if they lost, in order to have them ready for a tough playoff run.
“I thought it would pay off, and fortunately, it did,” he said.
Eighth-grader and guard Jack Tumulty, 14, said he felt the team was capable of big things during a midseason game against St. Bartholomew's School from Penn Hills.
“They were really coming at us,” Tumulty said.
“We weren't winning at halftime, but we ended up winning by double-digits. … The second half of that game gave me a really good feeling about this team.”
Adams credited fellow coach Mark Wallace, whose son moved on from St. Joe's after eighth grade, with returning and coaching.
“He volunteered to come back and help me,” Adams said.
“He doesn't even have a kid in the school anymore. That's a lot of time to give up when you don't really have a vested interest and aren't getting paid for it.”
Both David Adams Jr. and Tumulty said they will miss playing for St. Joe's.
“I have a lot of friends and a lot of them play for the team,” Adams said.
“We have a great gym, and it's just a great environment to play in.”
His father agreed.
“I told them before the postseason, ‘I'm not trying to be sentimental or emotional, but this is the last time this group will play together,” he said.
“This was a close-knit group. These kids have been going to school together for nine years in some cases. In such a small school, you become very close.”
That closeness made winning the championship special for the younger Adams in his final year as a Charger.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was so loud in the gym.”
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.