Wildcats hold off Rams to clinch split

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2010



ST. JAMES – St. James preserved a split with rival West St. John this season by holding off a late Ram rally, earning a 47-43 non-district victory at St. James.

The teams played four times this season, each winning twice.

“It’s always a good rivalry game,” said St. James coach James Smith. “We desperately needed a win. It’s a confidence builder.”

The Wildcats (3-12) had recently dropped two tough district games to strong teams, including top ranked Plaquemine.

Both teams started slow offensively, but the Wildcats were the first to shake it off in the third quarter and go ahead by as many as 10.

After a Denzel Pierre jumper drew West St. John (8-12) within one of the Wildcats, 23-22, St. James got on a roll. David Narcisse rattled off four straight points. Then Jaleel Steib scored twice inside. Christian Verrett tacked on a free throw to cap off a 9-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead 32-22.

Meanwhile, West St. John struggled getting into a rhythm.

“We’ve been beating ourselves by turning the ball over,” said West St. John coach Antoine Edwards. “To break it down simply, offensively we turned it over too many times. Defensively, we weren’t solid and strong. We didn’t close out on threes, and we got beat on the boards.

“You turn it over so many times though, it kills any team. We still have opportunities, but we need to fix things before our next district game.”

But that changed in the fourth quarter as the Rams seemed to adjust mentally. After Dray Joseph cut the lead to seven with a layup at the end of the quarter, he’d convert another basket on an early fourth quarter drive to make it 32-28. Blake Carter scored inside to draw WSJ within three, 33-30, and Jalen Adams made a free throw to make it a two-point game.

St. James then made what looked to be a clinching push. Travis Julien made two free throws, then Verrett drove for a basket to push the lead to 37-31. A Julien steal and layup capped a quick 6-0 run that made it 39-31.

But fueled by a 6-0 run of its own fueled by a pair of Carter buckets the Rams were within two with 1:37 remaining.

Narcisse converted a shot in the lane to push the lead to four. Then a turnover with a minute left allowed St. James to make it a five-point game via a Narcisse free throw. The wildcats pushed the lead to 45-37 at the line, and West St. John couldn’t close the gap again.

“We made some clutch free throws and upped our intensity,” said Smith of the second half. “We scrapped and got some turnovers. I told them we had to work just a little harder.”

Narcisse led St. James with 12 points. Julien added 10.

Pierre and Carter each scored 12 for West St. John. Joseph added 10.

St. James led 15-13 at halftime.