Wildcats open District 6-5A with two wins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2011



RESERVE –East St. John played contender after contender, game after game, throughout its predistrict schedule.

It was all to prepare for the homestretch of the season. And judging by the Wildcats’ first two district games, that plan is paying dividends.

East St. John defeated East Ascension Friday night, 76-66, after toppling St. Amant on the road last Tuesday, 67-42, in District 6-5A play.

The Wildcats have played a schedule including such contenders as Ehret, St. Augustine and Brother Martin (all fellow 5A schools), Riverside (2A), and even an out of state power in Westchester (CA).

Now the Wildcats can count two convincing 6-5A wins to their credit.

“It was by design,” said East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine. “We wanted to play such tough games early to gauge where we are. It lets us know where we are for district, and we won’t see any surprises.

“Our goal right now is to win the next game, but long term, we want to not just get to the playoffs, but win in the playoffs. And now we’ve got a gauge on some of the top teams in our class.”

Joseph Williams led East St. John (12-12, 2-0) with 20 points against East Ascension. Rashad Green scored 17 and Chester Victor, Jr. added 12.

For East Ascension (15-8, 1-1), Jamal Stewart led the way with 19. Curtis Watts scored 17 for the Spartans.

East St. John led 20-14 after a quarter and 35-26 at halftime, but East Ascension pushed back in the third to cut the Wildcats’ lead to just one, 49-48.

“We built that early lead by forcing turnovers and controlling the tempo,” said Jasmine. “The idea was to wear them out by pushing the pace and I think we did a good job there. It was our pace … But in the third, I think we were a little lackadaisical in our defense, especially in transition. We lost a little focus.”

The Wildcats found their focus again in the fourth quarter though, scoring a game-high 27 to the Spartans’ 18 to close out the victory.

“We got back to doing what we were doing early. Pushing the tempo, getting it inside,” said Jasmine. “Neither team shot well, but we got some easy baskets off of our press.”

ESJ led at half despite shooting 0-16 from 3-point range.

Williams had another strong scoring game in a season in which he has emerged as one of the team’s go-to players; he was only a week removed from a 27-point night at Riverside in a losing effort.

“We always knew he could score, and he’s set himself apart this season,” said Jasmine. “He’s a tough matchup for opponents because he’s got the game of a guard but he can still go inside real well. I think in his early days he was more of an interior player, and now that he’s added the perimeter game, he’s just a hard guy for a defense to match up with. He can take smaller guys inside and can take bigger guys outside.”

ESJ’s win at St. Amant (6-10, 1-1) wasn’t in question for long, as the Wildcats charged out to a 36-19 halftime advantage.

Emmanuel Victor scored 13 to lead the Wildcats. Sean Thomas and Chester Victor added 11 each.

“It’s a good way to start (district),” said Jasmine. “We know a number of people picked EA to win our district.

“So to get a win like that’s a nice step.”