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ESJ TAKES SECOND STRAIGHT DISTRICT CROWN

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / February 11, 1998

RESERVE – The East St. John Lady Cats won the school’s first outrightdistrict championship in basketball during the 1996-97 season.

It didn’t take them long to win the second as the Lady Cats defeated Hahnville, 56-51, Friday to capture the 1997-98 District 6-5A championship.

The victory extended East St. John’s winning streak to 25 games, thelongest current streak in the state heading into the Lady Cats’ game against Central Lafourche Tuesday night. The victory was also the 50thvictory for head coach Troy Giordano and assistant coach Bob Payne in their two years with the program. The Lady Cats are now 50-9 underGiordano and Payne and have not lost at home the last two seasons.

The Lady Cats’ record improved to 26-2 overall and 12-0 in district play with the victory. Hahnville fell to 4-15 overall and 1-9 in district. East St. John led 37-34 heading into the final quarter. The Lady Catsextended that lead to nine as Ginina Louis and Kinya Watkins bounced in jumpers and Tamika Williams scored on a put back.

Hahnville began battling back behind six points by Reanda Fields to cut the deficit to 46-41. After a 3-pointer by Karen Bass from the left side,Stephanie Stipe scored on a put back to trim the deficit to 49-47 with 2:15 remaining.

After a timeout by East St. John, Williams was fouled driving to thebasket and made the first of two free throws. Valinda Ard grabbed thesecond miss, setting up two free throws by Danya Duhe to build the lead back to five.

After a jumper by Stipe from the right side, Watkins answered with a turnaround jumper and added two free throws to give the Lady Cats a 56- 49 lead. Stipe closed out the scoring by taking a pass from Bass on theleft sideline for a layup.

Watkins led all scorers with 21 points. Louis tossed in 10 points, withDuhe contributing nine. Williams added five points while playing just thesecond half. The Lady Cats were also without the services of centerKavona Reese, who was held out with a shoulder injury. Hahnville was ledby Fields with 19 points. Stipe added 17 points, while Bass contributed10.

Hahnville jumped out on top early, scoring the first five points of the game and taking a 11-5 lead with 4:48 remaining on a pass from Bass to Fields underneath. East St. John battled back to tie the game at 11 on apass from Tenisha Williams to Watkins. But Bass answered with a 3-pointer from the left side to give the Lady Tigers a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Hahnville opened up its lead as the second quarter started as Stipe hit a jumper from the left side. Stipe then grabbed a steal and buried a 3-pointer from the right side to give the Lady Tigers a 19-13 advantage.

Fields added a layup and a jump shot from the free throw line to increase the lead to 23-16 midway through the quarter.

East St. John again fought back on a layup by Danielle Stemley and a jumpshot by Louis. Louis gave the Lady Cats their first lead of the game bytaking a pass from Pamela Winston underneath with 1:39 remaining. Bassanswered with another 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Lady Tigers the lead, 27-24, at the half.

East St. John opened up the second half by increasing the pressure andattacking the goal. The strategy worked as the Lady Cats scored the firstsix points of the half. Duhe took a pass from Watkins inside to give theLady Cats a 28-27 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.

Two free throws by Duhe gave the Lady Cats a five-point lead before Hahnville battled back to trim the deficit to 35-34. Duhe answered with aput back to close the third quarter.

Giordano said his team has to keep its focus over the final games of the regular season.

“Everybody is gunning for us,” Giordano said. “We can’t let it go to ourheads. We have to be ready every night.”The Lady Cats close out the season at home against Destrehan Friday night.

Giordano said one thing that will help the Lady Cats keep their focus is their goal of finishing the season undefeated at home. East St. John opensthe playoffs next week at home against a wild card team to be determined.

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