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Rick O'Brien: New-look Father Judge off to a 5-0 start

The loss of seven seniors, including five regulars, hasn't slowed the Father Judge boys' basketball team in the early going.

The loss of seven seniors, including five regulars, hasn't slowed the Father Judge boys' basketball team in the early going.

The Crusaders are off to a 5-0 start, including a 63-62 victory over talent-filled Math, Civics and Sciences on Dec. 10. The Mighty Elephants entered the season ranked No. 5 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer.

Against Math, Civics and Sciences, which features 6-foot-6 swingman Jeremiah Worthem, 6-6 forward Quentin Davis, and 6-7 forward Quadir Welton, Judge overcame a 23-11 deficit. The Crusaders allowed only one offensive rebound over the final three quarters.

"We mixed defenses, kept them guessing a lot," third-year Judge coach Sean Tait said. "We tried to force them into taking a lot of perimeter shots."

Brian Hennessey, a 6-3 senior wing guard, has posted 20 or more points in four of Judge's five games. He is averaging 18.4 points.

The only fixture back from last season's squad, which went 16-6 overall and 9-4 in the Catholic League, is junior combination guard Steve Griffin. He earned second-team all-league honors last season.

The Crusaders welcomed two transfers: Joe Robinson, a 6-5 junior forward who came over from Franklin Learning Center, and 6-3 sophomore swingman Malik Robinson, previously at Abington Friends.

Also in a seven-player rotation are 6-3 junior forward Jeff Seigafuse, junior point guard Sean Hanna, and senior swingman Connor Donohoe. Seigafuse switched to Judge after North Catholic closed in 2010.

Last Saturday, with Hennessey and Griffin combining for 38 points, Judge nipped Red Land, 57-56. The visitors overcame a 22-point effort by 6-9 senior forward Mike Zangari, who will play at East Carolina for former Carlisle star Jeff Lebo.

"The start we've had leads us to believe we can have some success in the Catholic League this year," Tait said.

The Crusaders will compete next week in the 14th annual Boardwalk Basketball Classic at the Wildwoods Convention Center. They will open against Holy Cross, of Delran, N.J., on Tuesday, and play Metropolitan (N.Y.) or Lower Cape May on Wednesday.

Tap-ins. Through five games, Neumann-Goretti's leaders have been Ja'Quan Newton (17 ppg.), John Davis (13 points, 9.5 rebounds), and Derrick Stewart (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3.5 blocks). . . . Roman Catholic's Shep Garner, a sophomore combo guard, is averaging 20.3 points. The Cahillites were without 6-4 sophomore Shafeek Taylor (concussion) in last Saturday's 59-51 loss to Paul VI. . . . Rip Engel, a 5-8 sophomore point guard who started the season at Roman Catholic, is now at Council Rock North. "I think the commute from Newtown was hard on him," Cahillites coach Chris McNesby said. "It was kind of a grind."

In Constitution's three games in the 39th annual City of Palms Classic, in Fort Myers, Fla., Savon Goodman, a 6-6 senior swingman, averaged 18.3 points and seven rebounds. Senior combo guard Daiquan Walker averaged 17 points and five assists. Senior point guard Tamir Bolger recorded 10 assists in Monday's 79-62 loss to Blanche Ely, of Sunrise, Fla. . . . Saturday, en route to 41 points in a 69-56 triumph over Roxborough, St. Joseph's Prep junior guard Steve Vasturia shot 15 for 24 from the field, including 7 for 13 from beyond the arc. . . . On Wednesday, behind 21 points and nine rebounds from Amile Jefferson, Friends' Central held off Urspringschule, 55-51, in the City of Palms Classic's Signature Series. Urspringschule is a 19-and-under squad from Germany.

Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10


Team Record

Records are through Tuesday.

Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. Chester (2) 4-0

2. Neumann-Goretti (1) 4-1

3. Friends' Central (3) 5-1

4. Imhotep Charter (6) 4-0

5. St. Joseph's Prep (8) 5-0

6. Roman Catholic (10) 2-1

7. Malvern Prep (NR) 7-0

8. Lower Merion (7) 4-1

9. Constitution (9) 2-4

10. Boys' Latin (NR) 5-1

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Abington (5-0), Archbishop Carroll (3-1), Church Farm (4-0), Father Judge (5-0), Germantown Academy (5-2), Philadelphia Electrical (4-1).

- Rick O'Brien