Making experience count

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2001


St. James defeats SCC to remain in first

ST. JAMES – The St. James Wildcats showed why they are the defending Class 3A state champions against St. Charles Catholic Friday night. Forced to play a halfcourt game by the Comets, the Wildcats, led by Levar Joseph and Derrick Jones, hit the key shots down the stretch to come away with a 76-65 victory in District 9-3A play. St. James remained in a tie for first place in the district with a 2-0 record and improved to 11-5 overall. St. Charles Catholic fell to 0-2 in district play and 18-8 on the season. Joseph scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. Derrick Jones helped out with 16 points and Justin Aubert with 14. Stevenson Jones chipped in with 11 points. The Comets also had four players in double figures, led by Alton Alexander with 19. Mike Mustian finished with 12 points. Daress Nicholas and Michael Bonura added 11 points apiece. St. James, which defeated St. Charles Catholic in both of the teams’ meetings last season, led 40-34 at halftime and took an eight-point lead in the third quarter on a pass from Derrick Jones to Joseph. The Comets pulled to within 44-39 on a put back by Nicholas and a free throw by Mustian. St. James responded with a 13-0 run. Joseph got the run started with a 3-pointer from the left wing on the ensuing possession, then found Jones inside. On the Comets’ next possession, Joseph grabbed a steal, drove in and dropped a pass behind him to Jones, making it 51-39. Henry Washington hit all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt the next trip down the court and Joseph followed with a 3-pointer from the left wing, increasing the lead to 57-39 with three minutes left in the third quarter. St. Charles Catholic answered with an 8-0 run of its own to close out the quarter. Bonura got the Comets back on the scoreboard by taking a pass from Nicholas on the left baseline. Alexander then took over, driving in for a layup, then hitting two free throws. After a St. James timeout, Nicholas passed inside to Alexander, cutting the deficit to 57-47 heading into the fourth quarter. Alexander kept it a 10-point game with two free throws with 6:57 left in the game. After the Wildcats went back up by 13 on a tap-in by Jones and a jumper by Joseph, Mustian found Nicholas driving in. Nicholas then grabbed a steal in the backcourt and took it in, making it 65-56 with 3:14 left. St. James answered with another 10-2 run. Jones got it started with a hook shot in the paint. Bonura hit two free throws to make it 67-58 with 2:21 left but Erron Hickerson answered with four straight free throws to increase the lead to 13. Aubert then grabbed a rebound and threw the outlet to Joseph who took it in for a dunk. Desi Steib followed with a steal, taking it the distance for another dunk and a 75-58 lead with under a minute to play. “We knew they were young and that we had the experience to go inside,” St. James head coach Lionel Ezidore said. “We played a really tough game against Donaldsonville Tuesday and I think that took some of the fire out. When we were in the lead, I just told them to take good shots.” St. Charles Catholic was coming off a loss to Lutcher at home on Tuesday but Comet head coach Philip Cavell said his team played a better game Friday. “I can’t be prouder of the kids,” Cavell said. “We were a totally different basketball team than we were the other night. We played our game. We wanted to control the tempo. We had to keep them from making runs and we had to keep striking. We missed some free throws and missed some open shots we needed at the time. When you play a big game, you can’t let the little things go wrong and that’s what happened.” St. Charles Catholic jumped out to an 8-2 lead as Mustian was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws and Bonura buried a 3-pointer from the left wing. After a drive by Joseph, Bonura found Alexander cutting inside, making it 12-6 with just over three minutes left in the quarter. St. James cut the lead to one on a 3-pointer from the right wing by Jones and a put back by Aubert. The Wildcats then went ahead as Derrick Jones found Stevenson Jones driving in, making it 13-12 with 2:02 left. Aaron Johnson put the Comets ahead for the last time at 16-15 with two free throws. On the ensuing possession, Joseph found Aubert inside. Aubert was fouled on the shot, hitting the free throw to put the Wildcats ahead by two. Aubert then scored on a put back to make it 20-16 at the end of the first quarter. St. James continued the run as the second quarter opened as Stevenson Jones and Joseph buried jumpers. A put back by Jones increased the lead to 27-19. The Comets pulled to within four on a put back by Alexander and a drive by Bonura. The Wildcats then pulled away, going on a 10-0 run. Joseph opened the run with a jumper from the left corner. Washington followed with a drive down the lane, making it 31-23 with 3:48 left. Jones scored on a put back, then found Aubert driving in. Another pass from Jones to Derrick Jones made it 37-23. The Comets got the deficit down to 40-34 at halftime behind two free throws each by Nicholas and Mustian and a layup by Matt Boucvalt after he stole an inbounds pass.