Marc Narducci: Gloucester Catholic nips Penns Grove, 41-39, in opener
The question was simple and to the point. Can you make the shot? That was the question Gloucester Catholic boys' basketball coach Todd Powers posed to senior Chris Sacchetti in the huddle.
The question was simple and to the point.
Can you make the shot?
That was the question Gloucester Catholic boys' basketball coach Todd Powers posed to senior Chris Sacchetti in the huddle.
It was an extraordinary question to ask of someone who had been predominantly a junior-varsity player the previous two years.
What was most impressive was the answer.
Sacchetti nodded to his coach in the huddle and then made good on his pledge, sinking a three-pointer to break a 38-38 tie with five seconds left.
That would be the difference as Gloucester Catholic picked up where it ended last season with Friday's 41-39 win over host Penns Grove in a Tri-County Conference Diamond Division game between serious contenders.
It was the opener for both teams, which means Gloucester Catholic enjoys the early upper hand.
Senior guard Robbie Alessandrine had 15 points to lead Gloucester Catholic, but the Monmouth baseball recruit is used to coming up big in crucial situations.
The 6-foot-2 Sacchetti is new to the surroundings, at least on the varsity level. And yet when the game was on the line, he couldn't contain his excitement when his coach asked that simple question in the huddle.
"It pumped me up, and I knew he had confidence in me," Sacchetti said.
So did the rest of the team.
"In that spot, we could have anybody take that shot, and I wouldn't want anybody else," junior center Mike Shawaryn said.
It takes program players to make a program, and in this case, Sacchetti fits the bill. He patiently waited his turn, honed his skills on the junior varsity, and came out firing in Friday's opener.
"Playing JV made me want to work harder," Sacchetti said. "I felt I would have a chance to step up this year."
Gloucester Catholic was 15-13 last year but came on strong at the end, reaching the South Jersey Non-Public B final before losing, 40-38, to Cardinal McCarrick.
It was a team under the radar, because it plays a style that probably earns more W's than headlines.
The Rams are built on grinders, a team that plays relentless defense, attempts to control tempo, and tries to develop players who can hit big shots in big games as the season goes along.
The defense against Penns Grove was stellar. The Red Devils, who have the potential to make some noise in South Jersey Group 1, were often forced to play a half-court offense.
That the Red Devils were 3 for 12 from the foul line didn't help matters.
Penns Grove also had to deal with the switching man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone of Gloucester Catholic, which isn't the easiest combination to cope with.
"We didn't make shots in transition," Penns Grove coach Kemp Carr said.
Gloucester Catholic also struggled on offense as both teams showed a little rust. Sacchetti found his rhythm at the right time, ending with 12 points and a shot that won't soon be forgotten.
"I knew when I shot it that it was good," he said.
Actually, he knew before that, specifically when his coach asked the simple question in the huddle that he emphatically answered moments later.
Gloucester Catholic 5 12 12 12 – 41
Penns Grove 8 8 8 15 – 39
G: Robbie Alessandrine 15, Chris Sacchetti 12, Tim Holder 2, Fran Kinsey 2, Mike Shawaryn 2, Ryan Schoppy 8.
P: Daquan Chase 11, Dankim Seals 8, Dominique Ware 8, GeShawn Davis 8, Tristen Lloyd 4.