Wildcats fall at EA, Hahnville to end 07-08 season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sports Editor

On one side of the court, there was the East Ascension Spartans, needing a victory to clinch the District 6-5A title outright after seeing its 17-game winning streak snapped at the hands of second-place Destrehan.

On the other was East St. John, who had fallen out of playoff contention after five consecutive losses.

These were teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. But one wouldn’t have known it on Friday night, as both brought the intensity.

Although East St. John saved perhaps its best offensive quarter of the season for its last, outscoring the Spartans 35-29 in the fourth period, it was not enough as East Ascension wrapped up the district crown with a 73-68 win at home.

“Although we lost, that was probably our best effort all year,” said East St. John Coach Yussef Jasmine. “It was a very good game. They made some big buckets at the end.”

Malcom Lago led East St. John (11-20, 2-8) with 23 points. Bryce Robertson and Jamaan Kenner each added 11.

Jamal Jackson led EA with 24 points. Marlon Johnson added 16.

East Ascension (30-2, 9-1) trailed after a quarter, 17-13. But it surged ahead entering the fourth, outscoring ESJ 31-15 over the next two periods.

But East St. John cut EA’s 12 point fourth quarter lead and drew within three.

But with the Wildcats already shorthanded without injured center Kelth Cameron, it was dealt another blow when Kenner fouled out of the game with three minutes left.

With two of its biggest offensive threats out, East St. John could draw no closer.

Jasmine was pleased with the effort his team displayed from top to bottom, as he rotated 11 players into the game, allowing ESJ to stay fresh and generate an unrelenting pressure defense.

“I knew my kids would come out and give a good effort, even though the game didn’t mean as much to us in the standings,” said Jasmine. “It’s a good performance to build off of going into next year.”

Last Tuesday, East St. John traveled to Hahnville, who the Wildcats had beaten in an earlier matchup on Jan. 25 at ESJ.

Hahnville was able to avenge that loss with a 70-62 win in front of its home fans.

Jarrod Kinsey led Hahnville with 16 points. LaRon Byrd added 14 for the Tigers.

Lago led the Wildcats with 19 points. Kalen Henderson added 11 and Robertson scored 10.

Hahnville (17-7, 3-5) jumped out to a 28-20 halftime lead and extended it to 52-28 after three quarters.

“They started out playing more aggressively than we were,” said Jasmine. “We got behind a lot farther than we wanted to be.

“Neither team played a very polished game, and we had our chances to get back in it. But we played a raggedy game down the stretch. We couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”

Each team made its own mistakes down the stretch. Hahnville was plagued by turnovers and an ill-timed intentional foul that allowed East St. John to climb back into the game. But the Wildcats had its own turnover issues to go along with some missed layups and chances to score off of the Tiger turnovers.

East St. John managed to cut the Hahnville lead to four in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers were able to extend that lead from there and hold on for the win.

While Jasmine admitted that the Wildcats’ final record was not where he envisioned it at the beginning of his first year as the team’s head coach, he saw a great deal of progress for a team that learned a new system this year and competed in a tough district.

“We had a young team in terms of basketball experience,” said Jasmine. “We did a lot of teaching that should help even more going into the next season. We’ll be fine next year.”