The Centaurs won the Power 5 Conference AA prep basketball tournament March 4 at the South End Community Center in Springfield, Mass., 117-97, over Redemption Christian Academy.
While the Gold prep team still has the National Prep championship tournament to play in, the Centaurs Blue team finished its season at 22-11.
“For a first-year prep basketball program, it’s remarkable,” said Blue coach Nick DeFeo. “We had 22 (wins) and (the Centaurs Gold prep team) has 34 with more hopefully to come for (the Gold). All these guys took a chance. We didn’t have anything to hang our hat on, no facts about our program, we had kids who took a chance on us. I hope it was as rewarding for them as it was for us. These guys worked their tails off every single day and it was an unbelievable first year and our kids deserve all the credit.”
The season didn’t start on a wonderful note as it took the Centaurs time to build chemistry and the start was 50-50, a 6-6 mark.
“We started the season very slow. These guys had to adjust. It took a while for us to adjust to the prep circuit, none of our guys played on it before and we adjusted well,” DeFeo added.
The Centaurs fell behind in the championship game when the Lions rattled off seven straight points within a minute and built a 10-point lead, 52-42 following a 3-pointer by Julio Rodriguez with 2:27 left in the half.
But the Centaurs answered with a 10-4 run of their own, highlighted by an E.J. Dambreville (22 points) 3-pointer, to pull within four at the half, 56-52.
“The end of that first half was crucial. That run kept us in the game. If we had folded there, we would have been in trouble in the second half,” DeFeo said.
Gedi Juozapaitis was forced to sit for an extended period in the first half after being saddled with two fouls.
He made up for the lost time in the second.
Juozapaitis scored 10 points in the first half, but erupted for 33 in the second.
The native of London, England had plenty of motivation, his mother was watching the game via Livestream.
“I saw a weakness in their defense and I exposed it and it was working for me. Credit to the guys for giving me the ball and trusting me with it,” Juozapaitis said.
Redemption Christian applied pressure on the ball the whole game and the Centaurs were able to take advantage of that.
“When defenses do that, we like to space the floor. I told (point guard) Danny (Dade), come to the right side with Gedi on the top on the left, because Danny’s lefty and he attacks with his strong hand. They chased over the top every single time and Gedi was open every time,” DeFeo said. “He’s so hard because he’s crafty around the rim and can finish there and if he has the lane, he’s dunking it. If they go under, he’s shooting a three. He got hot and they didn’t adjust.”
Juozapaitis helped the Centaurs break a 69-69 tie with 12:17 to play when he scored 12 in a 20-7 which included a pair of slams and three 3-pointers.
“When you’re in the zone, you don’t think about it. You’re just flowing. I didn’t even know I had 43. I think Danny came over to me with about a minute left and was saying ‘Get 50.’ I was like, ‘I have 43?’” Juozapaitis said.
The run put the Centaurs up by 13 and they gradually built that to 20 where it hung for the remainder of the game.
Dade, playing in his hometown, added 21, 15 of those came in the first half.
“It was a tough season,” Juozapaitis said. “We went 22-11 and to finish the season on a high with my brothers – they are my brothers for life – it was great. Everyone played well, we all stuck with it, even through adversity and we just pulled it out. I’m really happy for my team.”
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director


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