Ladycats score crucial win over Hahnville

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Sports Editor

Nine days ago, a gut-wrenching, last-second loss to Dutchtown left the East St. John Lady Wildcats in very unfamiliar territory – on the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

Two games later, East St. John is right back in the thick of things.

On Friday night, the Wildcats answered the bell with perhaps their most impressive performance of the season, defeating Hahnville 60-37 at East St. John.

“We’re right back in it,” said East St. John Coach Troy Giordano. “Now, if we win, we have a shot to get into the playoffs just like anyone else.”

The win was East St. John’s second straight convincing district victory, a week after the Dutchtown loss left the Ladycats at 1-3 in 6-5A play.

Now, East St. John (19-12, 3-3) is one game behind both Hahnville (21-8, 4-2) and East Ascension, who the Wildcats faced last night after press time.

With Dutchtown still undefeated in district play and a virtual lock for the postseason, it looks like a three team scramble for two remaining spots.

Mechel’le Thomas scored 21 points to lead East St. John. Wanisha Creecy scored 15. Christin Hildreth added 11.

Nadia Cox led Hahnville with 13.

The game was the rematch from a Jan. 8 contest, in which Hahnville hosted and defeated East St. John, 48-41, after a strong fourth quarter run.

The Tigers could have used such a run in this game. Before the start of the fourth quarter, with the Wildcats leading 45-32, Giordano told his team that Hahnville would “bring the best heat they’ve got.”

But East St. John’s fastball had plenty of mustard on it. Halle Lennix’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 16. Creecy and Thomas each scored a pair of baskets to follow, pushing the lead to 22.

Hahnville had no answer. East St. John’s defense, which kept the Wildcats in the game early when their shots weren’t falling from the field and from the line, was at another level in the fourth quarter. Hahnville could only muster five points, and one field goal.

“After we lost to them last time by seven, we knew we had to come back and play our game to beat them,” said Creecy. “We’ve been practicing back to back, all day, getting ready. It’s exciting.”

The key difference in the two games was the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency, particularly late. In the first game, the Hahnville pressure forced a young Wildcats team that plays a host of freshman and sophomores into turnovers and bad shots down the stretch.

This time, Giordano says, his team was ready.

“We handled their pressure tonight. We didn’t at Hahnville,” Giordano said. “The first time, I don’t think our freshman were prepared for the speed of the game. This time, they were. My hat’s off to these kids, they played their butts off.”

And after almost 30 games, those kids are still full of surprises for their coach.

“Never in my wildest dreams do I think we come in and beat that team by 23,” Giordano said. “You think it goes down to the wire, and you hope to have a shot to win at the end. You never would expect to win like that against Hahnville.”

On Sunday, East St. John hosted five games as part of the Hall of Fame Basketball Classic.

The Ladycats were able to down Chalmette in the opener, 56-27.

In doing so, ESJ avenged an December loss to the Owls.

Thomas scored 23 points to lead the Wildcats. Creecy scored 16.

“We’re a much better team now,” said Giordano on the difference between his team now, and the one that lost to Chalmette earlier this year. “We shot much better, and now we’re controlling the tempo. We’re not letting other teams dictate it to us.”

In other results from Sunday: St. James defeated Hammond, 72-49; St. Michael downed New Iberia, 39-34; Vandebilt Catholic beat Assumption, 38-31; and Walker edged Ursuline, 52-49.