Rams win in battle of state champs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 20, 2000

EDGARD – It might only be mid-December, but Friday night’s matchup between defending state champions West St. John and St. James took on aplayoff atmosphere in the Rams’ gym.

And like the three matchups between the teams last season, Friday night’s was decided late as West St. John rallied in the fourth quarter to pull outa 70-67 victory over the Wildcats.

West St. John improved to 3-1 on the season while St. James fell to 3-2.”Without a doubt, it’s always a rivalry,” West St. John head coach AntoineEdwards said. “Football, basketball, whatever sport we play, we know St.James will come to play and we will too. It was a seesaw battle. I’m justglad we were able to come out with a win.”Dwayne Bastain led the Rams with 19 points. Devin Herbert contributed 15points and Aaron Sylvain 11.

Henry Washington scored a game-high 23 points for St. James. LevarJoseph had 17 points and Derrick Williams 12.

St. James took a 61-50 lead early in the fourth quarter on a drive alongthe right baseline by Washington. Brian Wright got the comeback startedfor the Rams with under five minutes left, scoring off a steal by Anthony Gastrael. Wright was fouled on the play, hitting the free throw to cut thedeficit to eight with 4:28 remaining.

Two free throws apiece by Kermit Bethancourt, Sylvain and Bastain cut the deficit to 63-61 with 2:26 left. On the Rams’ next possession, Bastainpowered into the lane to tie the game at 63 with 2:07 left.

After Washington made one of two free throws to regain the lead for St.

James, Sylvain banked in a short jumper to give the Rams a 65-64 lead with 1:45 left. Bastain then grabbed a steal and found Herbert on the breakfor a layup. Following a free throw by Herbert, Bethancourt grabbedanother steal and found Sylvain, making it 70-64 with a minute remaining.

“Free throws helped us down the stretch,” Edwards said. “I told the kidsto be patient. We got patient down the stretch, got the ball inside toDwayne and got some easy baskets.”But the Wildcats were not through yet. On the next trip down the court,Erron Hickerson buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to cut the deficit to three with 50 seconds left. After an exchange of turnovers, Hickersongrabbed a steal for the Wildcats. Joseph’s ensuing 3-pointer was off themark with Wright grabbing the rebound for the Rams.

Sylvain was fouled but missed both free throws with 2.9 seconds left.Lendell Brown grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 1.6 secondsremaining. On the ensuing inbounds, Joseph drilled a pass the length of thecourt to Hickerson. Hickerson grabbed the ball, set himself behind the 3-point line and fired up a shot that went long as the buzzer sounded.

“We kind of lost our composure,” St. James head coach Lionel Ezidore said.”We tried to rush things and made some passes. We have a young team butwe will be pretty good at the end.”St. James led 37-32 at the half and extended that lead to 10 with 5:06left in the third quarter. It was Washington who led the way, scoring theWildcats’ first nine points of the quarter. His final two points came off asteal by Williams and made it 46-36.

A dunk and a layup by Bastain cut the deficit to six with four minutes to play in the third quarter. But Washington came back with a three-pointplay off a layup, making it 51-40 with 3:49 left. The Rams again rallied asa 3-pointer by Bethancourt and a jumper by Herbert brought them to within 51-47 with 2:09 remaining but the Wildcats responded with 3- pointers by Joseph and Washington to take a 59-48 lead into the fourth quarter.

West St. John jumped out to an 11-5 lead at the 4:50 mark of the firstquarter on a jumper by Bastain. St. James rallied to take a 15-11 leadwith 1:20 left on a layup by Washington and a free throw by Justin Aubert.

A tap-in at the buzzer by Williams gave the Wildcats a 17-13 lead heading into the second quarter.

Three-pointers by Joseph and Washington extended that lead to 23-13 at the beginning of the second quarter. West St. John came back, using a dunkby Bastain and a 3-pointer from the left quarter by Herbert to close to within 23-21 with 4:55 left in the half.

Two free throws by Gastrael, a dunk by Bastain and a 3-pointer from the right corner by Herbert made it 33-32 with 59 seconds left. But Williamshooked in a shot, then converted two free throws with 1.1 seconds left togive St. James a 37-32 halftime lead.

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