Basketball games to be played before St. Joseph, Staples boys meet

Team captains Brian Robertson, Glenn Manigault, Tommy Shannon and Jason James have helped St. Joseph to a 7-0 start to its season.

Team captains Brian Robertson, Glenn Manigault, Tommy Shannon and Jason James have helped St. Joseph to a 7-0 start to its season.

St. Joseph Athletics / Contributed photo

TRUMBULL - A pair of current unbeaten FCIAC boys’ basketball teams, St. Joseph and Staples, are scheduled to play on March 11. While fans may point to the match-up between 7-0 squad, St. Joseph coach Kevin Wielk is talking coach-speak regarding the encounter.

“The Trumbull game was a big win for us, we enjoyed it, but then we went back to practice and focused on our next game,” Wielk said. “That is what we preach. This team is good about getting back to business.”

Ridgefield, which has won three of the last four FCIAC titles, and New Canaan are other league unbeatens. St. Joseph has games remaining with Bassick, Harding, Central and Greenwich before ending its regular season at home to Staples.

“I’ll be watching New Canaan-Ridgefield when they play this week (March 2),” Wielk said. “We don’t play either team. Like Staples, they are both tough, play hard and have good shooters.”

Staples will play New Canaan on March 3, St. Joseph, and then Ridgefield on March 11. All but the New Canaan game is on the road.

The FCIAC tournament begins on March 13 with a pair of play-in games (No. 18 seed at No. 15, No. 17 at No. 16) before the round of 16 on March 16. The quarterfinals are March 19, semifinals March 23 and the championship game on March 26.

“What all the teams want is that home-court advantage,” Wielk said. “And for us to get that we need to keep working hard. This group plays the game for each other, they push each other in practice.”

Jason James, Tommy Shannon and Glenn Mannigault have been the top scorers.

“Jason is a gym rat and is always looking to get better,” Wielk said of his 6-foot junior guard. “We watch a lot of film together. He wants this for the seniors, the guys that came in with me from day one. He has worked on his shot and everything he does on the court.”

Shannon and Manigault are two of nine seniors on the squad.

“Tommy is having a great year for us, taking charges (four straight games) and hitting big threes,” Wielk said. “The guys get fired up when he takes one of those charges. He is getting rebounds, tips on the ball.

“Glenn is scrappy,” Wield said of the 6-foot-1 guard. “He does everything you need that doesn’t always show on the stat sheet. Then he pops out and has a 15-point game.”

Brian Robertson, a 6-foot-3 senior forward is a rebounding mainstay.

Wielk said: “Brian is one of our grunt guys, a player that gets it done. When Eli Newby and Brian are in there, they rebound well together with Carson Arkay.”

St. Joseph players embrace their roles.

“We talk about it all the time, whether it is a few minutes or one or two possessions, we need them,” Wielk said. “They’ve accepted their roles whether in practice and in games to get us better. We can bring in Mason Gregory and Anthony Rainey, both good 3-point shooters, when teams go to zones. Justin Russo is competing, spelling our 4 man. Patrick Dineen and James McCormack are great. Pat knows every play, even if I pull out a play from last year. I can put him out there as a coach. James gets the guys going, he is a leader and his spirit is always there.”

Wielk said that Derek Long, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, is a big contributor.

“Derek is a glue guy, with great hands for tips and deflections,” he said. “One game he can score in double figures, but like Glenn you count on him to do a bit of everything.”

St. Joe’s like to play fast and go up and down the court. They had to pull back in its closest win of the season, a 64-63 win at Westhill.

“Westhill is a great team, well coached, and have guys that can shoot it,” Wielk said. “Playing back-to-back nights and being on the road didn’t make it easier. They are the closest to our style. They press, will run with you with quick guards. We had to grind it out. I took off our press, couldn’t stay with that. I play a lot of guys 10-12 guys, it was tough. It was a great road win.”

Wielk didn’t want to look too far ahead this season, but he took time to assess St. Joe’s overall outlook.

“Maxwell Warren is a junior and Brandon Hutchison a sophomore on our varsity,” he said. “Our jayvee team is doing great (4-0),” he said. “We don’t have a star on that team, top to bottom they play hard. Ethan Long is going to be a very good player. Charlie Hare is going to put more muscle on and could grow to be a 7-footer. Eli Newby is another sophomore and a phenomenal athlete. We have a talented freshman class, so our future is bright.”

Notebook: St. Joseph moved to 7-0 on the season with a 62-47 win at host Ludlowe on Saturday. Jason James scored 21 points, Tommy Shannon had 18 and Glenn Manigault 10. In a 64-63 win at Westhill, James scored 24 points followed by Manigault and Shannon with 14 points each. Derek Long made a trio of 3-pointers to back Jason James’ 17 points in a 63-54 win against Darien. Long finished with 15 points and Shannon had 12. Twitter: @blox354