Cinderella Sea shocks Mount St. Mi-chael
Vikings beat host Mountaineers to advance to CHSAA Class A intersectional semifinals
By Dylan Butler
As was the case last year, when Bishop Ford and Iona Prep battled for a second consecutive year, it appeared the two teams to compete for the CHSAA Class A intersectional title would be a foregone conclusion.
This year, it was a sure bet that the de-fending champion Gaels would take on Mount St. Michael.
Somehow the memo didn’t make its way to Staten Island.
Heavy underdogs, St. Joseph by the Sea wasn’t given much of a chance to compete against the Mountaineers, cer-tainly not with the quarterfinals being played on their home court. The Vikings, though, sent shockwaves through the league with a stunning 58-55 victory Sat-urday afternoon in The Bronx.
“It’s huge,” said senior forward Eddie Connelly, who scored a game-high 21 points. “No one expected us to win, no one really knew of us, but we’re in the semifinals now.”
The only ones not surprised by the re-sult were the St. Joseph by the Sea play-ers.
“We expected it,” senior guard Nick Pavia said. “We thought we were going to come in here and win. We knew we had a tough game coming in, their home court, they’re No. 8 in the city, but we were pre-pared.”
Pavia (12 points) is the school’s star pitcher, backcourt mate Joe Lane (15 points) is the starting quarterback on the football team. Teammates Connelly, Joe Stabach and Anthony Cipriano are far from household names, at least outside of their households, and yet St. Joseph by the Sea is one of the last four teams stand-ing in the Class A playoffs.
“A couple of two-sport athletes and basketball maybe isn’t our number one sport, but we play great as a team,” Pavia said. “We’ve been playing since freshman year together and we’re composed. We’re not going to let anything rattle us, any-thing shake us.”
Sea (17-9) will take on Cardinal Hayes, which defeated Bishop Ford, in the semi-finals Tuesday at Cardinal Spellman. The Vikings are attempting to become just the second Staten Island team to win the Class A title after St. Peter’s won the crown in 1994.
“We came together at the right time,” Sea coach Scott Welle said. “We were hurting at the beginning of the year, Joe Lane and Eddie were hurt, but these guys stuck together saying they were better than this. We got our second chance in the playoffs and they’re playing their best ball of the year and it’s the perfect time.”
Mount St. Michael (20-5) jumped in front from the opening tip, but its lead fluctuated between six and 10 points throughout the first three quarters. The Mountaineers never went on a big run and it came back to haunt them.
“The bottom line is we didn’t make shots and we had some good looks,” Mount coach Tom Fraher said. “We picked the wrong day to shoot poorly. This one is going to sting for a while.”
Peter Aguilar, who averages 26.4 points per game, was held to just 10 and was mired in foul trouble as the Moun-taineers struggled against Sea’s 2-3 zone. Gary Acquah had 16 points and Randy Samuels added 13 for Mount, which saw its lead sliced to just three heading into the fourth quarter.
“The kids after that third quarter felt very confident that they could win the game,” Welle said.
Sea opened the fourth quarter on a 15-3 run, taking a 52-43 lead on Connelly’s 3-point play with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter. Mount was forced to press and got within 56-55 on an Acquah bucket in the paint with 13 seconds left.
But Stabach went 1-of-2 from the line and Connelly chased down a loose ball, also splitting a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining.
Chris Gay had a chance to send the game into overtime, but his desperation from halfcourt was off the mark and Sea celebrated its biggest win in program history.
“I think a lot of people didn’t know about us,” Pavia said. “But now I think they do.”