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Sports year to remember coming to a conclusion

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / May 20, 1998

As the seniors attend graduation parties and the rest of the student body counts down the number of days until summer vacation, it is time again to look back at the past athletic year.

It seems just like yesterday that fall football practice was kicking off and the first volleyball was being spiked. But a lot has occurred over thepast nine months and many memories have been made.

St. James and West St. John made the first of those memories with aclassic game in the Hap Glaudi Classic in the Superdome, becoming the first River Parishes teams to compete in the seven-year history of the event.

Both the Wildcats and Rams would go on to win their respective districts along with Destrehan, which captured its second consecutive district title. St. James and West St. John would advance to the state semifinalswith St. Charles Catholic just missing doing the same with a near upset ofNo. 1 Port Barre in the quarterfinals. Those three teams were part of ahistorical postseason that saw all eight River Parishes teams make the state playoffs for the first time.

The River Parishes volleyball teams were almost as successful, with East St. John, Hahnville, Lutcher, Riverside and St. Charles Catholic alladvancing to the state tournament. East St. John’s visit capped ahistorical year that saw the Lady Cats capture their first district title with a perfect mark in district. Riverside would defeat St. CharlesCatholic in a playoff for the District 9-2A title.

The Lady Comets would go the furthest of all the teams, advancing to the semifinals before falling to Newman. And Reserve Christian captured itsfourth straight state title in the Louisiana Christian Schools Athletic Association.

In swimming, Lutcher’s boys’ team took home their second-straight Class 3A state championship while the girls placed third. The St. CharlesCatholic boys and girls team both placed fourth in state in Class 2A.

As the calendar made the turn into 1998, basketball started heating up.

West St. John would bounce back from a nail-biting loss to St. CharlesCatholic to win the District 9-2A title. A victory over Eli Manning andNewman followed in the bi-district playoffs, sending the Rams to their first regional appearance in over a decade. The Comets would also advanceto the playoffs before falling in the first round.

History was being made on a consistent basis in girls’ basketball and much of that had to do with the East St. John Lady Cats. The Lady Cats wouldlose two of their first three games and then not again until the playoffs, rolling off a school-record 28-game winning streak. East St. John wouldcapture its second consecutive district title with a team-record 29 wins that included the Lady Cats’ first ever tournament championship. Only aloss to John Ehret in regionals would put a damper on the season.

Lutcher and Riverside would also make history on their way to the state playoffs, Lutcher with its upset of then No. 1 and undefeatedDonaldsonville during the season and Riverside with Melissa Martin going over 2,000 points for her career.

Reserve Christian would advance to the state finals in boys’ basketball and place third in the state in girls’ basketball.

In soccer, Hahnville and St. Charles Catholic would advance to the boys’state playoffs with the Tigers going all the way to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Acadiana. The Hahnville andDestrehan girls’ programs, both in their second year of existence, advanced to the playoffs with the Lady Tigers reaching the semifinals.

In wrestling, East St. John sent three wrestlers to the state tournamentwith Nick Peppo capping his career with a regional championship and a second place finish in state.

Then came the time for the spring sports season. In golf, Riverside’sMichael Schoen would win a district championship and St. CharlesCatholic’s Jeff James would follow with a regional championship. Intennis, Lutcher’s Sherye Burns and Rae Lynn Poirrier advanced to the state finals of the doubles competition in Division III.

The track season would end with Riverside’s Melissa Martin and Amanda Roussel and Destrehan’s Traun Smith and LaToya Breaux capturing state championships.

Smith would set a state record in the triple jump in the process and finish the year number two in the nation.

The softball season will be one that will be remembered in the years to come. Destrehan, Hahnville, Lutcher, Riverside and St. Charles Catholicwould all advance to the postseason. Lutcher, Riverside and St. CharlesCatholic would emerge from the first two rounds of the playoffs unscathed and advance to the state tournament in Alexandria.

A River Parishes team had never reached the finals – until this year.

Suddenly, all three schools would be competing for the state title, with those long-time rivals Riverside and St. Charles catholic squaring off forthe Class 2A championship. In a game for the ages, the Lady Comets scoredtwice in the bottom of the seventh for their first ever state championship.

Two hours later, Lutcher would put the finishing touches on a victory over Catholic of New Iberia to capture its first softball title.

Reserve Christian would come close to making it three for the River Parishes, placing second in the LCSAA tournament.

The baseball season was none the less memorable with Reserve Christian, Lutcher, East St. John and St. Charles Catholic competing in postseasonplay. The Wildcats, who battled back time and time again during theseason, reached the regional round before falling to Belaire.

St. Charles Catholic also bounced back time and time again to win theDistrict 9-2A championship. A come from behind victory over Loyola sentthe Comets into the state finals but Pope John Paul II held off one more late comeback for the state championship.

All nine schools can look back at the 1997-98 sports year with pride. Allnine won at least one district title and competed in postseason play. Andall nine will look to duplicate those feats in the year to come.

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