ESJ rallies to top Brother Martin

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008


Sports Editor

With his team trailing Brother Martin 37-32 at halftime on Thursday, East St. John Coach Yussef Jasmine knew the two things that had to change for his team to emerge from the Crusaders’ gym with a victory.

The first was that his team take care of the basketball, after an 11 turnover first half put the Wildcats in an early hole. The second was to get the ball inside.

With 6’8 Wildcat center Kelth Cameron waiting in the paint, that wasn’t such a bad idea.

Cameron scored 11 points, all in the second half, and the Wildcats only turned it over twice the rest of the way as they emerged with a 74-69 come-from-behind win in a game between teams expected to contend in their respective districts.

Cameron’s turn around jumper in the waning minutes of the third quarter put his team ahead, 53-51, and it would never trail again.

“Really, (getting him the ball) is what we’d like to do all of the time. He’s the biggest man on the court,” said Jasmine. “We began to force it inside, where he’s dominant. He stepped up big.”

Said Cameron: “I just felt like the team needed my energy. I wanted them to be able to feed off me.”

Five Wildcats scored in double figures, something that might become habit with ESJ (1-1) bringing back a deep and talented team. Point guard Malcom Lago led the way with 19 points. LaBaron Sylvester scored 12. Perry Mason, Jr., scored 11 and Kaylon Placide added 10.

“It feels real good to get the win,” said Lago. “We turned it up in the fourth quarter. We were able to cut down on our turnovers and make our free throws.”

Once East St. John builds a lead, as it did in the fourth quarter, it’s Lago that Jasmine trusts to manage it.

“He’s in complete control,” said Jasmine. “He’s so dominant with the ball, and that helps us maintain the advantage.”

“I know I need to handle it (in those situations),” Lago said.

Brother Martin (0-2) took a 47-40 lead after a shot by the Crusaders Jamon Gray was goaltended by East St. John.

But the Wildcats began their push, first on a short shot by Cameron, then on a three-point play by Kalen Henderson when he drove, made a layup, and drew a foul.

Gray scored again to put Brother Martin ahead 49-45, but Lago converted a layup and drew a foul on the other end. His free throw cut the Crusader lead to 49-48. Mason stole the ball after a good defensive possession and got the ball to Lago in transition, who drew a foul and made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game with 2:13 left in the third.

Sylvester made a reverse lay-up to give East St. John its first lead since 15-14 in the first quarter. Al Prieto tied it with a basket on the other end, but buckets by Cameron and Lago closed out the quarter to leave ESJ with a 55-51 lead.

Brother Martin tied the game again with 6:11 remaining, but couldn’t take the lead on their next possession, instead turning it over on a traveling violation.

Sylvester made a put-back, and the Crusaders missed a 3. ESJ dumped it into Cameron for an easy score, and Brother Martin was whistled for traveling for the second time in under a minute. Sylvester came up big again, hitting a short jumper, and Mason came up with a steal on the ensuing trip down court. East St. John led 64-58.

The Crusaders trailed 67-64 with 2:11 remaining. From there, the Wildcats turned up the defensive intensity. A Sylvester strip left the Crusaders with no points on a fast break. Brother Martin ran cold from the perimeter, but regained hope when it drew within one on a pair of foul shots.

But Sylvester made another layup, and the Crusaders missed a jumper. Lago drew a foul and made both shots. With 20 seconds left, Mason stole the ball to effectively clinch the win — the first of the season for the Wildcats.

“It’s like a weight off my shoulders,” said Cameron. “After facing this, I think we’ll be a lot more confidence against any challenge we face.”

WILDCATS FALL TO FONTAINEBLEAU: East St. John dropped its first game of the season on the road to Fontainebleau, 79-66.

After a first quarter where the teams finished tied at 19, the Bulldogs outscored ESJ 35-24 in the next two periods to pull away.

Mason led the Wildcats with 17. Lago scored 12. Placide and Brandon Robinson scored 10 each.

Taylor Hanby led the Bulldogs with 24.