OP Hoops Tops Hillside in Season Opener, Improve to 1-0

Thomas Hunt, Co-Editor

     Fresh off a Mountain Division Championship winning season, varsity hoops was looking to pick off right where they left off in the December 15th season opener. In this season opener, the Rams were set to face off against conference rival Hillside, which placed 3rd in the division last year with a very respectable 13-8 record.

John Pirone photographed in warmups  (Image via Oratory Prep)

In the early stages of the game, John Pirone made his presence felt in his first varsity start, knocking down 2 quick threes to put the Rams up 6-4. The Junior Small Forward’s 4 total threes capped off a 14 point performance, which was crucial in a game as close as this one proved to be. At the end of the 1st quarter, Oratory found themselves in the midst of a tie game, with the score being 13-13. Senior, Mike Pirone came out of the break firing, making his first three of the year to start the 2nd quarter. The power guard will be looking to improve upon his stellar junior season, in which he averaged 17 points and 2.56 steals a game. Blocks by Mike Pirone and Patrick Conniff would then exemplify the elite defensive play, that put the Rams up 22-21 to end the half. 

Mike Pirone shown knocking down a 3 in last year’s win against Delbarton (Image courtesy of Robert Grasso)

     To start the 2nd half, Mike Pirone would get the scoring started once again by hitting his 2nd three of the night. In spite of a lower leg injury, Mike would still manage to score 10 of the Rams 50 points. A 17-10 3rd quarter run put the Rams up 39-31, led by strong transition plays like that of a coast-coast layup by Max Cook. The sophomore’s strong play in transition did not stop there, as on the opposite side of the court a thundering block would keep the Rams up 47-40 late in the 4th. However, the Hillside Comets would not go away, sending senior Greg Jones to the line with 19.7 seconds to go in a 47-44 game. Jones would come up big – as he did all last year, where he had 10 games of 15 points or more. This time, Jones would put the Rams up by 4, scoring his 11th point of the night before the Comets came down the floor and made it a 1 point game. Hillside would then send class of 2025 guard Asher Bradley to the line, who would hit both of his free throws to put the Rams up 50-47 with just 3.1 seconds remaining. Bradley’s all-around 13 point, 8 rebound and 7 assist performance would play a key role in the Rams victory. My fellow Rowdies should expect a big season coming from this crafty sophomore guard.

Player Spotlight Courtesy of Unity Legends

Still working the kinks out, the Rams will look to make leaps in the statistical categories of rebounding and overall field goal percentage as the season progresses. Although there are areas to be improved upon, Oratory’s 7 blocks, 5 steals and 73% free throw shooting were certainly the keys to this hard fought victory, which propelled the Rams to the forefront of the Union County Conference Mountain Division by beating in-conference opponent Hillside. The Rams will next play St. Thomas Aquinas – ranked 4th in the state – on Saturday, December 17th, before playing that other school in town on December 20th, in an epic mashup of our home opener falling on Hypemas, in a game to defend our title as “Kings of Summit”.

Stats and game highlights from the season opener are linked below:


Image via Hudl