Morris captures MVP honors as Rams defeat host Riverside

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005


Sports Editor

If West St. John is still going through their pre-season, it’s going to be a long year for the rest of District 10-2A.

In a preview of what will be two very exciting district games, West St. John defeated Riverside Academy Wednesday night 66-51 to capture the 2004 Riverside Academy Holiday Classic title.

Tournament MVP Damian Morris led the Rams with 19 points and Dearnold Anderson had 10 points. Josh Labiche had a game-high 20 for Riverside and Robert Tamplain added 12 points for the Rebels. Labiche and Tamplain were also named to the All-Tournament team.

Falling behind early 8-2, the Rams (8-2) answered with a 12-4 run to end the first quarter and had a 14-12 lead.

With both teams trading buckets for the first several minutes of the second quarter, the Rebels’ (13-4) last lead came at 19-18. A put-back basket by WSJ center Tyren Johnson gave the Rams a 20-19 lead with under five minutes remaining in the half, a lead that they would never relinquish.

Up 30-27 at the half, West St. John dominated the third quarter, outscoring Riverside 20-8 and extended their lead to 50-35 heading into the game’s final period.

Rams head coach Antoine Edwards was happy to come away with the victory.

“It’s a great win for us,” Edwards said. “Both teams played a extremely hard and the game could have gone either way. I just thought that overall we stepped up at some point or another and took advantage of that.

“Saying some things that I wish I hadn’t to the officials, I told the kids at halftime to stay off the officials and just step up and play more aggressively. I told them that we just needed to get more involved as a team.”

With the football players returning and his team back at 100-percent, Edwards is excited about what his team can accomplish on the court.

“I hope this is a sign of things to come,” Edwards said. “But I know that we still need a lot of work. Down the stretch I thought conditioning took its toll on us because we couldn’t hit the barn off a roof on the free throws down the stretch. I knew that our conditioning was catching up to us there.”

He was also very pleased with the play of his star guard Morris.

“I keep telling our kids that when they are on the floor they have to be able to know how to read their opponents and how they are playing,” Edwards said. “I thought at several times throughout the game Damian could take the guy he was guarding to the hole.

“At times he did that. He stepped up when he had to and came up down the stretch with a lot of solid free throw shooting for us.”

Morris said he felt very comfortable throughout the game.

“As a team, we played much harder defense , but we still have a lot of work to do, especially with our free throw shooting,” Morris said.

Riverside head coach Tommy Monier said his team had their fair share of chances, but just couldn’t take advantage when they needed to.

“First off, I thought the first five minutes we had a lead and I thought we had the chance to take a sizeable lead,” Monier said. “But we were terrible from the free throw line and we didn’t make shots. Some shots that dropped for us the last two days didn’t drop.

“As far as the third quarter goes, we had a game plan that we wanted to come out and execute and we didn’t do it. There’s no excuses, we just didn’t do what we were suppose to do and there is no doubt in my mind that if we do what we are suppose to do we are in the game and possibly win it.”

Despite scoring a game-high 20 points, Monier said they were never really able to incorporate Labiche into their offense.

“When a certain player has to do so many different things it takes a toll on you,” Monier said of Labiche. “When you are not very deep like we are, what can you do? Josh had to step up and handle the ball. When we get guys in foul trouble, we struggle. Josh is our leading rebounder, one of our best assist guys, but one person can only do so much. We have to have other guys step up. Until we get that we cannot expect to beat quality teams.”

Labich agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“As a team we just couldn’t really get into our offense tonight,” Labiche said. “We were struggling. We had a lot of turnovers and that is what really cost us the game. We were just not able to handle the ball well.

“Today they were the better team. We are going to play these guys two more times in district play. Hopefully we can watch some film and be prepared next time to come away with a different result.”

The Rams deeper bench also proved to be a critical component in their victory.

“They (WSJ) run guys at you in waves, ” Monier said. “They probably went 12 deep tonight. It’s tough for us. They are much more athletic than us and we are just not that deep. You can only run up and down the floor with them for so long. You have to have guys step up and come up big for you. In the third quarter, we just didn’t have come up big.”