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SECOND QUARTER RUN LEADS ESJ TO VICTORY

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / February 21, 1998

RESERVE – A 22-2 second quarter run paved the way for a 61-56 victory by East St. John over Zachary in the girls’ bi-district playoffs Thursdaynight.

The Lady Cats improved to 29-2 on the season while extending their winning streak to 28 games. East St. John will play at District 7-5Arunnerup John Ehret, a 76-62 winner over Archbishop Chapelle, in the regional playoffs next week.

Zachary, a wildcard from District 4-5A, completed its season at 19-12.

Kovanna Reese, playing her second game since missing two games late in the season with a shoulder injury, paced the Lady Cats with 21 points, two block shots and 10 rebounds, including seven offensive boards. KinyaWatkins added 16 points, while Tamika Williams tossed in 13 points.

Christy Brown dominated in the paint for the Broncos, scoring a game-high 23 points. Amanda Parker contributed eight points, while Holly Barham andKelli Pullenadded six and five points, respectively.

East St. John trailed 18-16 after Barham found Parker cutting underneathwith 6:25 left in the first half. But the Lady Cats then turned up the tempoand held the Broncos scoreless over the next 3:17.

Watkins started the run, scoring on a put back after an exchange of turnovers. Reese followed by grabbing a miss by the Broncos and tossing itdowncourt to Williams. Williams relayed the ball to Ginina Louis, givingthe Lady Cats the lead for good at 20-18.

Reese then grabbed another board, rifling a pass to Louis who found Williams driving to the basket. Williams laid it in, giving the Lady Cats afour-point lead and forcing the Broncos to use a timeout with 5:24 left.

The rally continued as Williams popped in a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Watkins followed with a jump shot after a rebound by Dayna Duhe, andWilliams added two put backs, giving the Lady Cats a 33-18 lead.

Brown got the Broncos back on the scoreboard by taking a pass from Barham underneath, but Reese countered with a put back while being fouled.

After a technical foul was assessed against the Broncos’ bench, Reese made the free throw and Williams added two more to build the Lady Cats’ cushion to 38-20 with 2:52 remaining.

Zachary then began a rally as Kristal McClendon buried a jump shot to cut the deficit to 38-26 at the half.

The comeback continued into the second half as Brown scored twice and Barham knocked down a jumper from the right side to bring the Broncos to within 38-33 with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.

East St. John countered as Reese grabbed the ball coming off the glass andput it back and Watkins added a short jumper from the left baseline.

Following a put back by Valinda Ard, Watkins grabbed a rebound and quickly tossed it to Danielle Stemley at midcourt. Stemley relayed theball to Williams downcourt, building the advantage back to 48-35.

Baskets by Reese and Watkins and a put back by Louis gave the Lady Cats a 56-41 lead with 4:45 remaining in the contest. Zachary then began onelast comeback as Brown and Barham scored to cut the deficit to 11 with 3:53 left.

Brown followed with two free throws and a put back before Watkins answered by bouncing a pass to Reese underneath for a layup. But the LadyCats could not put the Broncos away, failing to convert on three straight front ends of one-and-ones.

Zachary took advantage of the misses as Kelli Pullen nailed a 3-pointer from the left side and Brown scored on a put back to bring the Broncos to within 59-54 with 13.4 seconds left. But Watkins sealed the game on thefollowing possession, making both of her free throws to give the Lady Cats a seven-point cushion.

“They were not just any wild card team,” East St. John coach TroyGiordano said. “They were a good team. They kept making runs at us and we knew they could press really well.

“Once we picked the tempo up and started pressing, they got tired and we got a second wind and started pulling away. But we knew they weren’tgoing to quit.”East St. John jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on a three-point play byReese. Zachary rallied, taking the lead at 8-6 on a steal and layup by CarlaMatthew with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

The Lady Cats bounced back, retaking the lead at 14-12 on a jump shot by Watkins from the free throw line. Parker answered by taking a pass fromRachael Farrar underneath to tie the game at the end of the first quarter.

East St. John jumped ahead 16-14 before the Broncos took their last leadof the game.

The Lady Cats will go on the road for their regional playoff game, but Williams said it was good to get the first game out of the way.

“It felt real good,” Williams said. “But it is going to get harder. We aregoing to have to play harder to win. We are going to have to play our gameand shoot well.

“We have to play defense, that is the key. We have to stay together as aunit and that will keep us going.”

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