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DETERMINATION LEADS EAST ST. JAMES TO NATIONALS

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / March 21, 1998

LUTCHER – It is amazing what you can achieve in life when you never give up.

The East St. James 9 and 10 year-old Biddy Basketball All-Stars provedthat adage this season. And because they refused to quit even when thesituation looked bleak, the squad will be playing for a national championship this weekend at John Curtis in Harahan.

East St. James became the first team in the parish to advance to anational tournament when they placed third in the regionals at St. JamesWest last weekend. East St. James defeated St. Charles before falling toNew Orleans. East St. James bounced back to defeat St. James West toqualify for the national tournament.

East St. James reached the regionals when it placed third at the districttournament in St. Bernard. The All-Stars hit two free throws with no timeon the clock to capture the final spot.

That third-place finish in district followed a second place in the Morgan City tournament and a third place in the St. Charles tournament.The team was made up of players selected from each team in the East St.

James biddy basketball league. The players attend schools across theparish including Lutcher Elementary, Gramercy Elementary, Paulina Elementary and Our Lady of Grace in Reserve.

East Bank Biddy Basketball director John Brass, a former head basketball coach at St. James High School and now the principal at St. James JuniorHigh, started biddy basketball in the parish 15 years ago.

Brass set down a list of criteria the players needed to meet in order to play including having a 2.0 grade point average in school and a cleandiscipline record.

Brass said the team has achieved success because they keep battling back.

“They never quit,” Brass said. “When they get behind, they keep playing.They may be behind by 15 points but they keep playing. They never giveup.”Team captains Dustin Mitchell and Devin Joseph agreed with that assessment.

“When we get behind, we want to come back and win,” Mitchell said.

Joseph said the key has been the two d’s – defense and determination.

“We play hard defense and play our hearts out,” Joseph said.

East St. John coach Donald Taylor said Brass has had a lot to do with thatsuccess also.

“John Brass sets the tone for everything,” Taylor said.

Another factor in the success of the East St. James squad is its heightadvantage. Coach Lloyd Clayton said the team had three of the biggestplayers in district and regionals, making it difficult for teams to match up with it. The All-Stars also had quickness at the guard position.Clayton said the team can play either an up-tempo or half-court game, depending on the situation.

“If we can run, we will run,” Clayton said. “If not, we will play a slow-down game. We will also press as much as possible.”Dyrrus Batiste, who has been on the team the last two years, said East St.

James has one goal at the national tournament.

“To win the championship,” Batiste said.

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