Last season, St. Joseph Hill Academy (Staten Island) Girls’ Basketball team did not play any games due to COVID-19.
Therefore, Head Coach Jim Garin was not exactly sure how his young squad was going to fare heading into the 2021-22 Catholic High School Athletic Assocation (CHSAA) girls’ hoops year.
Currently, the Koalas’ top seven players (mostly young) are comprised of three juniors, three sophomores, and a freshman. Garin said that the bulk of St. Joseph has not play much high school ball before the season. leaving a little uncertainty in his club’s hardwood abilities.
However, the Koalas are 9-2, which is somewhat surprising to Garin and his coaching staff.
“I am surprised because we didn’t know what to expect,” Garin said. “We didn’t play last year. But it’s kind of worked out well (for us).
A big part of St. Joseph’s success is due to junior forward Elizabeth Bennett, who is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14 points and ten rebounds per game. Plus, he said she is a wonderful down-low defender with a great jump shot.
“She is our best player,” Garin said. “She is our most consistent scorer.”
Next, there is junior point guard Michele Chahwan, a pass-first floor general who is averaging eight points and ten assists per contest while junior guard Madison Crocco is averaging 10 points and two three-pointers per game.
Then, there is 5-foot-11 freshman forward Molly Keane–a very impressive back-to-the-basket-and-turn-and-face five who is only going to get better, assistant coach Matt Garin noted–who is averaging five points and six rebounds. Plus, sophomore guard Juliana Rodriguez, who is averaging six points per tilt.
And 6-foot-1 sophomore stretch 4 Tara Murphy, who is capable of coming off the bench and starting along with sophomore Faye Vidal.
After playing 11 games, the Koalas will play 13 contests in three weeks to complete the remainder of the regular season. Garin said this is where the team’s mettle will be tested and push the collective boundaries of a bunch of young girls.
“Due to COVID cancellations and weather cancellations, we have to play more than half the season in three weeks,” the Brooklyn-born and Huguenot native said. “Some of the girls at the end of bench will have to play more minutes. The girls are going to have to step up.”
But he is confident St. Joseph will rise to the occasion, as the coaching staff and girls have work tirelessly and made the necessary adjustments to improve as the season has progressed.
“We weren’t sure what we were getting at the beginning of the year,” the 59-year-old said. “We made some changes to get certain girls the ball more often. And it’s working out for us. They’re having fun, and I’m loving it.”
Garin said part of the reason the Koalas have gotten better all year long is due to its assistant coaches’ guidance, including the younger Garin, the coaches’ son and former high school standout. Plus, Brittany Carroll, an ex-St. Peter’s and Curtis high school player and former DIII Mount St. Vincent star who was a 1000-point scorer in college.
“It’s been a real help to have him around,” he said. “The girls love having him here. As for Brittany, she can help navigate the college recruiting process, as she has gone through it herself.
“I think the program is heading in the right direction.”
St. Joseph is set to face host Molloy on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
— Jerry Del Priore
Photos: Annie DiBiase.
Cover photo of junior forward Elizabeth Bennett.