St. Jerome boys basketball team wins sixth city championship
BY CHRIS MCMANES
St. Jerome Parish was denied the opportunity to win a postseason championship last season because of the pandemic. Not so this year.
With their 60-41 victory over St. Thomas More Parish on Feb. 24, the Jaguars captured the Catholic Youth Organization Boys 14U Mid-Atlantic City Championship. It’s their first title since 2015.
“It’s been seven years, and it feels absolutely awesome to finally have the trophy back,” said St. Jerome Coach Joe Sego, who has guided the Jaguars to four crowns.
Jordan Smith led the way with 31 points and was named MVP. Silas Devonish had 12 points and Nico Paris nine in the contest at DeMatha’s Looney Convocation Center.
“It feels good because we didn’t get to play [for the title] last year,” Smith said. “This season was really fun. Playing against my friends and with my teammates was really cool.”
St. Jerome’s dominance over St. Thomas More was a microcosm of how dominant they’ve been the past two years. After going undefeated in 2021, the Jags were 29-1 this season for a combined two-year total of 54-1 (.982 winning percentage).
The return of Smith and Devonish played a key role in the 2022 team rolling over opponents. They helped to attract Paris and Diego Joy to join the squad. Paris had played for St. Jerome in the past, and Joy’s parish (St. Matthias) didn’t field a team.
“Having the reputation of being very good last year playing all AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] teams, the majority of which were older, and word spread quick,” Sego said. “By bringing back Jordan and Silas, two of the best players in the area, people want to play with them.”
Smith and Devonish started for the 2021 Jaguars alongside Pete Newman, Shane Lincoln and Nyk Lewis. Newman (St. John’s) and Lincoln (Bishop O’Connell) played this past season on their respective high school varsities. Lewis was a starter at Gonzaga.
Smith, who was Sego’s first seventh grader to dunk in a game, scored on a variety of shots in the title game, particularly in the lane. St. Jerome’s biggest lead was 25.
“Jordan was owning the boards, especially in the beginning of the game, and getting easy putbacks,” Sego said. “Going into the game, we knew we had to stop them in transition and keep them in front of us on defense.”
Devonish said the key to winning was “getting Jordan the ball and create openings” for him.
Devonish was a great defender throughout his three years with St. Jerome. His quick hands and foot speed often led to steals and fastbreak baskets. He shot well from the outside and was adept at finishing drives.
Smith is strong and super athletic and nearly unstoppable in the lane. He has narrowed his high school choices to St. Paul VI and DeMatha. Devonish is down to Bishop Ireton and DeMatha.
“In addition to being very talented, they’re nice kids and very unselfish,” Sego said. “I’ve had talented players that weren’t really popular to play with because they’re not giving the ball up. But Silas and Jordan were perfectly fine letting other people shine. And that’s super important.”
Sego has contributed to seven city championships. The first three (1996, ’99, 2000) came as an assistant under Mike Gielen at St. Mark’s Parish on Adelphi Road. Sego became head coach at St. Jerome in 2007 and won his first two crowns in 2008 and ’11. Dick Brown guided the Jaguars to titles in 1974 and ‘85.
“Ever since I got here, I’ve been loved,” Devonish said about St. Jerome. “The coaches brought me in and worked with me every single day. I appreciate it. It’s been fun playing with a group of kids I like. A good environment and great teamwork.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) coached baseball and basketball at St. Jerome Parish.