Lady Cats fall short in Battle on the Bayou

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 1, 1999

WESTWEGO – East St. John hung with O.P. Walker for over a half but fatigueand the Hodges sisters finally caught up with the Lady Cats as the Chargers pulled away late for a 66-46 victory in the semifinals of The Battle on the Bayou at the Alario Center Wednesday afternoon.

O.P. Walker (7-0) went on to win the tournament title with a 63-51victory over Salmen Wednesday night.

East St. John (6-3) advanced to the semifinals with a 48-45 victory overSt. Mary’s Tuesday night. Earlier that afternoon, the Lady Cats had held offa late John Curtis rally for a 64-50 win. The Lady Cats opened thetournament by defeating Chalmette, 48-24. The team had been coming offthe Hammond Tournament which concluded Friday and was playing its eighth game in the last seven days.

East St. John pulled to with 54-44 midway through the fourth quarter on athree-point play by Ginina Louis. But the Chargers answered on its nextpossession as Ronekka Hodges found Latiaya Henderson inside for a layup.

The Lady Cats then went cold, missing their next two shots and being called for a charge as Hodges increased the lead to 60-44 on a jumper from the right baseline and a layup.

After Danielle Stemley drove in for a layup to make it 62-46, Walker ran off most of the final two minutes, scoring on a put back by Hodges and a layup by Keishell Briscoe at the buzzer for the final margin.

“Nothing went our way,” East St. John coach Troy Giordano said. “Everytime we got close, something went against us. We’re a tired team. Wedidn’t have our legs and it showed. We’ll take the next couple of days offand go at it Tuesday.”East St. John opens its home schedule Tuesday against Grace King.Louis led the Lady Cats with 13 points. Kavonna Reese chipped in with 11points while Kinya Lennix had 10 and Stemley nine.

Ronekka Hodges had a game-high 27 points for the Chargers who improved to 6-0 on the season. Her sister, Donekka, added 17 points with Briscoetossing in another 11.

Walker jumped out to an 8-1 lead on a pass from Ronekka Hodges to Donekka Hodges inside. East St. John pulled to within three on a put backby Reese and a layup by Louis. Walker again pulled away, taking a 14-6lead into the second quarter behind a put back by Ronekka Hodges.

East St. John again rallied, cutting the deficit to 15-10 early in thesecond quarter on a drive by Lennix and a put back by Reese. But theChargers answered with six straight points on a jumper and put back by Hodges and two free throws by Briscoe to take a 21-10 lead at the 4:45 mark of the quarter.

Stemley dropped in a 3-pointer from the right side and Louis scored inside off a pass from Ashley Wolfe to bring the Lady Cats to within 25-18 with 1:36 left in the half. But after Donekka Hodges and Velinda Ard tradedthree-point plays, Briscoe grabbed a steal and was fouled on the layup, hitting the free throw to make it 33-21 at the half.

Two jumpers by Lennix and a put back Reese had the Lady Cats in the game at 39-29 midway through the third period. But again, Walker had ananswer, taking a 44-29 lead on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Ronekka Hodges. Louis drove in off steal but Hodges came back with twomore baskets to make it 52-37 heading into the fourth quarter. East St.John made it 54-41 in the fourth quarter off a running jumper and a layup by Stemley.

In the semifinals, East St. John rallied from seven points down to upendSt. Mary’s. Lennix had 24 points with Reese adding 11 and Louis 7.Against Curtis, the Lady Cats broke open a close game early with a 14-3 run to end the first quarter. Reese opened the run with a layup off a passfrom Lennix and a put back.

Crissy Arnold nailed a 3-pointer for the Patriots but Lennix came back with a jumper and Reese with a put back to make it 14-7. Louis thenclosed out the quarter with two layups off the fast break and a jumper to make it 20-7.

The lead grew to 26-8 in the second quarter on a layup by Reese. Three-pointers by Arnold and Vanashia Allen brought Curtis to with 26-15 and both hit two free throws to make it a nine-point game late in the quarter.

But Stemley found Louis driving in and Louis laid it in at the buzzer, giving the Lady Cats a 31-20 halftime lead.

Two free throws by Ard and a drive by Reese after a Curtis turnover gave East St. John it’s biggest lead at 41-24. A jumper by Stemley after sherebounded her own miss made it 45-30 heading into the fourth quarter.

East St. John took a 53-30 lead with 6:49 left in the game as Reese stolethe ball, passed to Ard who found Louis ahead of the pack. The Lady Catsstill held a 57-36 lead with 4:30 left as Lennix hooked in a shot after chasing down a length-of-the-court inbounds pass by Reese.

Ashley Meyers opened the Patriots’ comeback with a jumper in the lane.

Lindsey Buler took a steal in, Allen knocked down a 3-pointer from the right side and Meyers and Arnold hit jumpers to make it 57-47 with 2:24 left.

Curtis pulled to within 58-50 on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Allen with 1:06 left. But after a timeout by Curtis, Louis found Stemleycutting in for a layup. Lennix then hit four straight free throws in thefinal minute to seal the win.

“We needed this win,” Giordano said. “We had been struggling early in theyear. But we played hard and good. We played our basketball today.”The Lady Cats were able to open their lead by beating the Curtis press.

“When we beat the press, we make the team that presses pay for it,” Giordano said. We are going to get points off it.”Going into the first home game Tuesday, Giordano is happy with his team’s progress so far.

“This team is a good basketball team,” Giordano said. “We are right wherewe need to be and we’re happy with that.”

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