WILDWOOD (N.J.) - Bishop Eustace Preparatory School senior James Iannelli credits the trajectory of his basketball play to repetition.
Just play every day. That was Iannelli's motto during the summer to improve as an athlete on the hardwood.
The senior has emerged as the Crusaders' undisputed leader after the transfer of Reggie Selden to Bonner-Prendergast (Pa.).
Bishop Eustace coach Robert Falconiero observed Iannelli's improvement and thinks he was a bit reserved about his offseason agenda.
"I think he was a little humble about his offseason," Falconiero said. "He put in a lot of work, a lot of time on his own. Of course they all play AAU, but he spent a lot of time in the weight room. He got stronger and he looks it."
Iannelli tallied a game-high 19 points as the Crusaders, ranked fifth in the South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15, cruised past St. Joseph, 61-44, in the Boardwalk Classic Bill Osborn Memorial Bracket semifinals at the Wildwood Convention Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Bishop Eustace will play No. 15 Pemberton in the Bill Osborn Memorial Bracket final on Wednesday.
The senior is averaging a team-best 16.8 points per game through four games this season. He notched a career-high 20 points in a 53-49 statement win over No. 12 Paul VI last Thursday.
"The biggest thing about us is no let downs," Iannelli said. "We just had a big win against PVI the other night and the thing today was come in, new day, new game, go hard the whole game. That was the plan and we did that."
The Crusaders scored 12 unanswered points after the opening tipoff and inaugurated the contest with an 18-1 run. St. Joseph was held without a field goal until there was less than a minute left in the first quarter.
"We jumped on them early," Falconiero said. "Their (primary) scorer got in foul trouble so he came out. That helped us a little bit. I felt my team played very well. Played good defense, shared the ball very well, moved the ball very well . I was very pleased with how they played today."
The Crusaders thrived in the open court with seamless ball movement in transition. Falconiero's group was able to spread the ball on fast breaks without taking unnecessary dribbles and find players cutting to the basket without the ball in their hands.
Seven different players scored for Bishop Eustace, epitomizing its brand of play built upon unblemished ball movement and fundamental offense.
"We've stressed fundamentals," Falconiero said. "Every practice we spend at least 20 minutes doing fundamental things and it's starting to show up (in games) which is nice to see. When it shows up, the game can be fun. It's something that we teach and they're doing it. We like the progress that we're making."
Daniel Mason added 10 points for the Crusaders, including a massive two-hand slam dunk on an assist from Iannelli and a pair of three-pointers. Jaden Hollingshead contributed eight off the bench, and the duo of Frank Semiraglio and Thomas Semiraglio added six points each.
St. Joseph's leading scorer, Arnaldo Rodriguez, was held scoreless in the first half. The senior scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Three out of the Wildcats' five starters were held scoreless. Senior Shamar Cox led St. Joseph with 14 points off the bench.
"We were gearing in on their best players on defense," Iannelli said. "Just focusing on their strong points trying to shut them down. That one kid, No. 13, we tried to limit his three-point shots and just share the ball offensively."
Iannelli's approach to his offseason regimen and his leadership on the court has also helped the younger players develop in the program.
"He's a great leader," Falconiero said. "We have four guys getting a lot of playing time that are sophomores. They'll grow if they have the mindset that James has. One thing that's good is they're watching him progress and he's showing them, as a leader, what he did. If they all do the same thing they're going to have good careers, too."