Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 28, 1998

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / March 28, 1998

RIVER RIDGE – Any basketball coach will stress the importance of making free throws, especially down the stretch. Just one free throw down in thefinal minutes can mean the difference between winning and losing, between being a champion and being an also-ran.

The St. John Parish Warriors proved the importance of free throws onceagain against Plaquemine in the Biddy Basketball International 10-Year- Olds tournament Wednesday afternoon at John Curtis Christian School. TheWarriors made 23 of 26 free throws, including 10 of 12 in the fourth quarter. Those free throws were the difference as St. John took home thechampionship with a 64-57 victory over the Blue Devils.

“We are a good free throw shooting team,” St. John coach Eric Rogers said.”I believe that if you can shoot free throws down the stretch in close games, you have a good chance to win.”Demond Carter led the Warriors with 17 points. Ryan Stipe tossed in 13points, while Ryan Perrilloux and Dana Stipe contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively. All four received Biddy All-American awards.Plaquemine’s Mario Stafford led all scorers with 23 points. JacqouiWilliams added nine points and Chris Reeves contributed eight points.

Stafford, Williams, Reeves and Walt Lemoine were named All-Americans.

St. John took a 40-30 lead into the final six minutes. Stafford rallied theBlue Devils, scoring on a three-point play and adding a steal and layup to cut the deficit to 40-35 with 5:33 remaining.

The Warriors bounced back on their ensuing possession as Ryan Stipe hit a 3-pointer from the right side. Four straight free throws by Ryan and DanaStipe gave the Warriors a 10-point lead with 4:40 left.

Plaquemine rallied again, cutting the deficit to 49-44 on layups by Williams and Chad Davis with 3:11 remaining. But St. John again answeredon a put back by Perrilloux. After a traveling violation was called againstPlaquemine, Dana Stipe found Perrilloux cutting underneath the basket to give the Warriors a 53-44 lead with 2:50 left.

A 3-pointer by Stafford from the top of the arc brought the Blue Devils to within 56-51 at the 1:38 mark. But Dana Stipe came up with a steal on theBlue Devils’ ensuing possession and found Ryan Stipe downcourt for a layup. The Warriors then made five of their six free throws in the final 49seconds to seal the win.

St. John held a 27-20 advantage at the break before Plaquemine rallied tocut the deficit to three with three minutes left in the quarter on a put back by Landon Landry. The Warriors came back as Carter found Perrillouxunderneath and then buried a short jumper himself from the right baseline to increase the lead back to 37-30. A steal by Perrilloux and a passdowncourt to Carter gave the Warriors a 10-point cushion.

Plaquemine stayed close in the first quarter and a took a 7-5 lead on a 3- pointer by Stafford. The Warriors answered with a 10-4 run to take a 15-11 advantage into the second quarter. Dana Stipe had four points duringthe run and Kendall Diggs added a short jumper. Stafford put back a shot atthe buzzer to bring the Blue Devils to within four.

Plaquemine pulled to within one early in the second quarter on a 3-pointer and a layup by Stafford. But the Warriors then started to pull awaystarting with two put backs by Jamal Breaux.

Carter added a jump shot and a put back and Timmy Byrd tossed in a jump shot from the right baseline to give St. John a 27-16 advantage with oneminute left. Four free throws by Philip Watson cut the deficit to seven atthe half.

St. John and Plaquemine had played four times during the season, andRogers said Wednesday’s game came down to who wanted it more. TheWarriors had defeated Tulsa, Okla., Mandeville and Plaquemine to reach thechampionship game. Plaquemine had advanced by defeating Coltsneck, N.J.,Opelousas and Mandeville.

Members of the Warriors were Kendall Diggs, Jarrod Smith, Jamal Breaux, Dana Stipe, Denarold Anderson, Renardo Porter, Lacarido Joseph, Timmy Byrd Jr., Ryan Stipe, Demond Carter, Ryan Perrilloux and Jarvis Sanders.Coaches were Eric Rogers, Eldrid Smith, Raffael Neal and Barry Jones.

“I attribute everything to the kids,” Rogers said. “They are a great bunchof kids to work with.”

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