Published 12:00 am Monday, January 24, 2005

Sports Editor

So far so good for the West St. John boys.

Playing their second game without star Damon Morris, who was lost for the season due to academics, the Rams defeated Riverside 43-40 Tuesday night at home to open district play.

With the win, the Rams run their record to 13-2 on the season and 1-0 in district play. Riverside fell to 14-8 on the year and 0-1 in district play.

In Morris’ absence, Juan Joseph and Denarold Anderson stepped up for the Rams. The duo combined for 24 points.

Riverside was led by Josh Labiche who finished with a game-high 15 points.

Knowing the rest of his team must fill the void left by Morris, Rams head coach Antoine Edwards said he likes what he has seen from his team so far.

“It’s a big loss to have to play without Damon,” Edwards said. “But we know that we have to move on. It’s going to hurt us, but we have been adjusting.

“I think since Juan Joseph has stepped in and he has been playing pretty good. Dehaven Butler who is coming off the bench is not scoring as much, but I think overall defensively he is playing pretty well.”

A solid battle for three quarters with the lead switching hands several times, West St. John took hold of the game in the fourth quarter outscoring Riverside 18-9 to come away with the victory.

Seeing his team not play their best for the first three quarters, Edwards was impressed with the way his team stepped up when it mattered the most.

“Without a doubt that was a great thing to see because we didn’t play well,” Edwards said. “We played bad in the first half and the second half we were kind of lacking. Then all of a sudden we stepped it up defensively when we had to and I think that is what got us back into the game.”

“We were able to score baskets at crucial times when we had to. Denarold (Anderson) playing so well on the boards really kept us in the game. He played well.”

Riverside head coach Tommy Monier thought his team played well enough to come away with the victory.

“I really thought we outplayed them the whole night,” Monier said. “We just made some mistakes down the stretch that were kind of uncharacteristic. We hadn’t been making those kind of mistakes this season.

“One thing led to another and we just didn’t do a good job executing like we did the first three quarters.”

With district play in full swing, Edwards said his team will not change there philosophy when it comes to doing what is needed to come away with a win.

“Even with the loss of Damon we haven’t done anything differently than compared to when he was in there before,” Edwards said. “We are still basically doing the same things.

“Whether it is football, basketball, or whatever we just tell our kids you are going into your second season so you have to step up to the next level. We know that from here on out district wins will carry you into the playoffs and one thing we want to do again is get back into the state playoffs. The only way that we can get in there is with district wins.”