Rams power past Ringgold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Sports Editor

It’s often said that styles make fights. Basketball games, too.

On Friday night in Edgard, West St. John’s size and strength overcame Ringgold’s speed and quickness – barely – as the Rams advanced in the bi-district round of the Class 1A playoffs, 69-62.

With the score tied at 58 in the fourth quarter, the Rams went on to outscore Ringgold 11-4 in the final 3:28 of play to secure the win.

“We started off strong,” said Rams center Alton Joseph, who led all scorers with 23 points. “We turned it over a bunch of times to lose the lead. But we talked at halftime,  regrouped, and finished strong.”

West St. John coach Antoine Edwards was relieved to see his team hold on to advance, but cautioned that better play would be needed for Rams to extend their season further. 

“It’s a big win, no doubt,” said Edwards. “But in my opinion, we played poorly. We’re capable of better than that.

“At the same time, we didn’t lose our composure (after losing the lead).”

West St. John (14-12), the No. 12 seed in Class 1A, was scheduled to travel to No. 5 Plain Dealing yesterday for a regional round game. Plain Dealing dispatched Haynesville in the first round, 56-26.

The second half of the Rams’ win saw seven ties – six in the third quarter – and several lead changes.

This all came despite a first quarter in which WSJ looked to be on the way to cruise to an easy victory. The Rams led 22-9 after the first quarter, repeatedly got easy buckets inside, and allowed Ringgold few good looks offensively.

“For some reason, the momentum changed,” said WSJ coach Antoine Edwards. “Their overall speed was better than ours, and they made a run.”

Ringgold (14-22) began to get going offensively to begin the second quarter, but still had no answer for the Rams interior scoring. But with WSJ leading by 10, the Redskins changed strategies and made their move, swarming and trapping WSJ ball-handlers.

The resulting turnovers keyed a quick 10-2 Ringgold run in the last two minutes of the second quarter, capped by a score on Ladarious Scott’s drive down the middle of the lane before the halftime buzzer.

“We made some big turnovers in that stretch,” Edwards said. “It really allowed them to get right back into the game.”

From there, it truly was a fight between two teams for their respective playoff survival. Neither team led by more than two in the third quarter. Ringgold converted acrobatic layups and drives to the bucket, while West St. John pounded the ball inside to Joseph, who scored eight of the team’s 12 third quarter points.

“Our defensive performance was poor,” said Edwards. “I can’t remember the last time we played zone so poorly.”

Kaliff Gaestreal, who scored 17,  made two free throws midway through the fourth quarter to put the Rams ahead by five.

Marquist Nash answered for the Redskins with a driving layup, and Demarcus Madison made a layup and drew a foul after a Ringgold steal. He made the free throw to tie the game at 58 with 3:28 left.

But Ringgold’s bench was whistled for a technical foul during the three-point play, and the game swung in West St. John’s favor for good from there.

Joseph hit one-of-two from the line off the technical, then scored a quick basket on a hook shot underneath off the inbounds play. WSJ got a stop, and Ringgold fouled Denzel Pierre, who made both free throws to push the lead to five.

“We made baskets to get the lead when we had to,” Edwards said.

With 40 seconds left, two free throws by the Redskins’ D.J. Ashley made it 65-62. But the Redskins couldn’t get a steal, and the Rams closed out the win at the foul line.

“Our big enemy all year has been free throw shooting,” said Edwards. “We missed some tonight. But we made some there at the end to keep the lead.”

Scott finished with 15 to lead Ringgold.

Tyreece Strong added 12.