ESJ Wildcats make statement in decisive win

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012



RESERVE — Over the past few seasons under coach Yussef Jasmine, East St. John has built a reputation as a team that plays a tough as nails pre-district schedule before entering district as a dangerous team, one better than its record indicates.

This year saw the same brutal schedule. But this year, the Wildcats record indicates just how good they are, and a strong run through district will surely net a high seed in the postseason.

ESJ put an exclamation point on its predistrict campaign with an impressive 67-37 victory over visiting Brother Martin.

The deep Wildcats (12-4) once again broke an opponent in the second half via their defensive pressure, pushing a seven-point halftime lead to 23 after outscoring the Crusaders 25-9 in the third quarter.

Joseph Williams and Tra’devin Wilson each scored 15 for the Wildcats, while Emmanuel Victor chipped in 10.

For Brother Martin (6-7), Jordan Cornish scored 12 to lead the way.

East St. John led 7-5 after a quarter but picked up its offensive game the rest of the way, scoring no less than 16 in each of the final three quarters. ESJ held the Crusaders to single digits in three of the four quarters.

“We started out slowly, not really aggressive as we normally are,” said Jasmine. “In the second half though, we really picked up our pressure.”

Jasmine was especially happy to see a dominating performance on the defensive end by center Elex Carter.

“He had about 10 blocked shots,” said Jasmine. “He knew coming into the year we were going to ask him to score more. And I think he got that in his head and was worrying about that end … on Monday, we stressed to just go out and play like he knows how to play. Like he played last year, when he was defense first. And the offense will come. He was back to his old defensive ways, and it was good to see.”

ESJ forced 21 turnovers. Jasmine said his team set out to get the ball out of the hands of Cornish, one of Brother Martin’s chief creators at guard.

“We wanted to make other guys handle it and get the pressure out on them,” said Jasmine.

ESJ will begin district play Tuesday, with memories of the school’s first-ever 10-0 finish in district fresh in the minds of the players.

If they do that again, the path might be that much clearer to what Jasmine has talked about since his rise to head coach in 2007; bringing a state championship to East St. John.

“We knew we’d have a good team this year,” said Jasmine. “We’ve done a lot of things here over the past few seasons. Winning district, then going 10-0 for the first time, advancing in the playoffs. The thing we feel that’s left for us to do is what everyone wants. We want to go out and win state.”