Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
The scene is set to Nov. 23rd, a Wednesday evening in Staten Island and there is a big game taking place in that borough. It’s an annual matchup that takes place at the College of Staten Island every year, and this year was the very first one since the COVID-19 pandemic since 2019. It’s the matchup between two of the borough’s finest programs, St. Peter’s and Curtis.
However, in this rivalry, it is the Eagles that have been in control, 39-25, leading up to that game, over the Warriors. And on this cold, windy night, at least 1,300 spectators filed into the Sports & Recreation Center to see their beloved teams. On one end was the Curtis section. On the other end was St. Peter’s section, many of which contained the student section known as the Brighton Boys, which is known for providing plenty of entertainment during games, with their cheers or jeers, depending on the moment.
When the Eagles stepped on the court, they were on a mission and they were focused on the goal at hand, which was knocking off their counterpart in this rivalry game. From the very beginning, the guard play was phenomenal, as they didn’t force their shots too much. They handled the ball carefully and made the right passes. Even though the Warriors made countered at times, the Eagles would not relinquish the lead and would go on to win the 65th annual event by the score of 48-30.
Fast-forward to the present day and the St. Peter’s Eagles are one of the premier teams in the CHSAA “AA”, as they are currently 13-6 overall and are in third place in the CHSAA Archdiocesan (teams from The Bronx, Staten Island and Westchester County) division with a 6-5 record. Thus far, they have beaten teams in the “AA” division such as Archbishop Stepinac, Archbishop Molloy, Monsignor Scanlan and Bishop Loughlin and their losses have come to teams such as Cardinal Hayes, Iona Prep, Christ the King, St. Francis Prep and St. Raymond. In addition to Curtis, they have also beaten other teams in Staten Island, such as Moore Catholic, Monsignor Farrell and St. Joseph by the Sea. So far, they are currently 5-1 against teams from their borough, with their lone loss coming to Farrell on Jan. 15th.
Back in June, longtime head coach Charlie Driscoll, who had been coaching at St. Peter’s since 1989, and had been the man in charge since 2001 with the varsity program, decided to retire. Driscoll compiled a record of 344-198, and won 14 CHSAA Staten Island titles and 10 Staten Island High School League titles.
Enter Ryan Woods, a 2008 graduate of St. Peter’s, who went on to play Division II basketball at Pace University as a freshman & sophomore before transferring to NJIT, where he played on the Division I level for his remaining two seasons of eligibility as a junior & senior before graduating in 2013. For three seasons, he was the head coach of the Eagles’ junior varsity team & compiled a 54-20 record and a berth in the CHSAA junior varsity championship game. The appointment of Woods as the head coach has been a good one, as he is young and is able to relate to the youths.
This year’s roster has had plenty of gems on the roster such as 6-foot-6 junior forward Qadir Martin, 6-foot-3 senior forward Steven Bradley, 5-foot-11 junior guard Jalen Munson, 6-foot-2 senior guard Alex Chi and 5-foot-9 junior guard Michael “Mikey” Spisto. Contributors to the Eagles are 6-foot-2 junior forward Michael Quinones, 5-foot-9 junior guard Antonio Morello, 6-foot-3 junior forward Jorel Monroe and 6-foot-3 junior forward Maddox LaPierre.
This season, Martin and Munson have been the newcomers for the Eagles, as they transferred over from Curtis in the summertime, and their move has paid immediate dividends for the Eagles, especially being that Martin is the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game and is garnering attention Division I interest and Munson, at 8.1 points per game, is also coming into his own.
Of the veterans on the team, Bradley, the second-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, as well as Chi (6.8 points per game) and Spisto (6.1 points per game), have also been shining as well, as they have been contributing with their shooting and also Spisto’s ability to be a playmaker at the point guard position.
With only two games left in the regular season (the Eagles play Xaverian on the road on Feb. 3rd and have a rematch against St. Joseph’s-by-the-Sea at home on Feb. 7th), the Eagles will be setting their sights on the Staten Island High School League Tournament, which is back after a three-year hiatus following the COVID-19 pandemic. The championship game will be at Petrides School on Feb. 17th, and with plenty of confidence, there’s no doubt that St. Peter’s.
Following that, the Eagles will be looking towards the CHSAA Archdiocesan Tournament, which could potentially be played on the weekend of Feb. 25th at Mount St. Michael Academy in The Bronx. And then, the Eagles will be playing the CHSAA “AA” Intersectional playoffs, which will then be win or go home.
It’s been 40 years since St. Peter’s won a CHSAA championship. In 1983, the Eagles knocked off Archbishop Molloy, which was coached by legendary head coach Jack Curran and led on the court by future NBA player and current TNT broadcaster, Kenny Smith, in the CHSAA title game, 51-49. The leader on that St. Peter’s championship team was Greg Pedro, who went on to play collegiate basketball at both Michigan State and Fordham, where he had his best season as a junior during the 1986-87 season, scoring 13.4 points per game for the Rams.
But this year’s Eagles definitely plan on making noise and definitely bringing more and more attention to the place that many call, “The Forgotten Borough.” Staten Island isn’t really a forgotten place, but merely overlooked. But if you look closely, you’ll see there’s plenty of talent in the borough, especially on the small court in the gym located at 200 Clinton Avenue in the West New Brighton section of Staten Island.