By Anthony Bosco
With two games left on their regular season dance card, the St. John’s Prep Red Storm are one win away from accomplishing a startling turnaround from a year ago by going from worst to first.
Coach Jimmy Gatto’s troops finished last year with a disappointing 5-20 record, one year after making it all the way to the Catholic High School Athletic Association Division II championship game. But the loss of Taliek Brown, now at the University of Connecticut, to graduation decimated a team that relied primarily on the senior point guard, relegating the club to last place at the end of the regular season.
But what a difference a year has made. With his young and inexperienced team having suffered through a dismal 2000-2001 season, the Red Storm players were geared up for a better showing this season and they did not disappoint.
“In one season we turned it around,” Gatto said. “We have the same kids. We’re just a year older and a year wiser. They worked hard over the summer and were determined not to let that happen again. They played well together.”
With games against Bishop Ford and Xavier still on the slate — two teams St. John’s has already beaten this year — Gatto seemed optimistic of his team locking up first place with a win in either game. Back-to-back losses would relegate the team into a first-place tie with St. Edmund.
“If we win one out of two we clinch division,” Gatto said.
Currently his team is 17-5 overall and 10-4 in league play, good enough for top of the CHSAA Division II South standings.
Leading the charge for the Red Storm this year has been 6-foot-1 senior guard Desean Burke, a Lefrak City native. Gatto said his leading scorer has received interest from some Division III schools.
“I think he could do a lot better,” Gatto said.
Also aiding Burke are senior forward Brandon Coles, senior guard Christian Giraldo and senior center Edward Moore, all of whom have contributed throughout the year.
In the team’s most recent outing, the Red Storm defeated Mount St. Michael, 72-52, as Burke led with 20 points, followed by Coles with 18 and Giraldo with 14.
If St. John’s does lock up first and garner a bye in the first round of the playoffs, the team will not have to play Tuesday in the first round, but would play Saturday, March 2, in the second round at either Bishop Ford or Mount St. Michael.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.