BRIDGEPORT -- Maybe the St. Joseph boys basketball team ought to figure out a way to play all its game inside the Webster Bank Arena.
The Arena has proven to be a fine home away from home -- and then some.
Friday night St. Joseph improved to 7-0 at the Arena over the last three seasons, defeating Harding 77-51 in front of a couple hundred fans.
"It's a big court, we like to run so it plays to our strength," St. Joseph junior Jonathan Dzurenda said. "We love the energy of the crowds, our fans, the big place. We love it."
The Cadets (8-1) used the big court to their advantage all night, breaking through the Presidents' nonstop pressure and trapping for easy baskets.
Those easy points were set up by St. Joseph consistently making the extra pass to find the open man. The Cadets finished with an assist on 20 of their 27 field goals, led by Raekwon Reid's five.
"They're seasoned. They know what it takes," Harding coach Charles Clemons said. "They know how to play."
St. Joseph opened up some breathing room early in the second quarter, turning a five-point lead into a double-digit advantage on a quick 7-0 run which made it 29-17.
The 3-point shooting of Harding sophomore Reggie Stewart (game-high 22 points) kept the Presidents within arms length, until another St. Joseph 7-0 run -- capped on a 3 from Jake Pelletier -- to finish the half put the Cadets ahead 42-26 and well on their way to a win.
Pelletier and Dzurenda led St. Joseph with 17 points apiece. Quincy McKnight and Erick Langston each added 11.
"They shared the basketball," Cadets coach Chris Watts said. "There were no individuals out there tonight."
In the second half the Cadets' lead slowly grew as they held the Presidents to a single field goal -- a 3 by Stewart -- in the fourth quarter to extend the final margin of victory.
Davaun McAllister finished with 11 points for Harding, KinShawn Pettway chipped in with 10.
Clemons, an assistant at St. Joseph before taking the Harding job last season, knows the way the Cadets play is eventually how he'd like his team to play. The Presidents (3-5) are only one win away from matching last year's win total, but Clemons says there's still a lot of work left, even if his squad has shown signs of improvement.
"It's been like that for two years, you can't be going in the right direction forever, eventually you have to correct some stuff and be held accountable," Clemons said. "Once we hold ourselves accountable, that's when we'll take the next step. I appreciate everybody saying we're going in the right direction, but you know, Harding's been king of the hill."
St. Joseph now turns its attention to Tuesday night's game at home in Trumbull against Trinity Catholic, the lone remaining undefeated team left in the FCIAC.
"Trinity is a great team," Watts said. "Coach (Mike) Walsh will have them prepared. It's going to be a battle. They probably have the best point guard (Schadrac Casimir) in the state of Connecticut."
ST. JOSEPH (8-1)
Jake Pelletier 5 4-4 17 Jonathan Dzurenda 6 4-5 17 Quincy McKnight 4 203 11 Denzel Moscova 0 0-0 0 Kahil Smith 1 0-0 2 Judenick Florian 2 0-0 5 Raekwon Reid 3 2-2 8 Erick Langston 4 3-6 11 Mike Sulik 0 2-2 2 Rich Kelly 0 0-0 0 Steve Hashemi 2 0-0 4 Totals: 27 17-22 71
Terrance Rogers 1 2-2 4 Avery Monk 0 2-2 2 Jaymar Gaynor 0 1-2 1 Davaun McAllister 5 1-2 11 Jayvon Smalls 0 0-0 0 KinShawn Pettway 2 6-7 10 Tyrique McNeil 0 0-0 0 Dennis Hinds 0 0-0 0 Reginald Stewart 8 1-2 22 Keneil Brown 0 0-0 0 Ralph Kemper 0 1-2 1 Totals: 16 14-19 51
ST. JOSEPH..................................19 23 18 17--77
HARDING.....................................12 14 18 7--51
3-pointers: Pelletier 3, Dzurenda, McKnight, Florian; H--Stewart 5
Technical fouls: H--bench