Rams’ pressure stymies Phoenix

Published 11:45 pm Friday, December 7, 2012



EDGARD – West St. John basketball coach LaVanta Davis spoke before the season of his intention to increase the defensive pressure the Rams put on opponents this season. By the looks of his debut as the Rams’ head coach Thursday night, that’s exactly what West St. John will do.

Phoenix had no answer for the Rams’ press as West St. John captured a 44-29 victory at home in its season opener.

The Rams (1-0) started their season later than most teams due to the success of the football team – WSJ reached the Class 1A semifinal before bowing out at Haynesville last week. While the team had to fight through some offensive hiccups in its first live action together, it’s defensive play ensured that the Rams controlled throughout; WSJ held Phoenix (3-5) to four points in the second quarter and just six in the third as it built a lead that climbed as high as 23.

“Especially at halftime, we reemphasised what we wanted to do on defense … push the ball where we wanted it to go and trap off of that,” said Davis. “And we were able to do that. We made their guards put it on the floor and forced them into mistakes. We got after them a little bit and it allowed us to get out into transition.”

It was the first time in over 30 years that anyone besides  Antoine Edwards has walked the sideline as West St. John head coach. Edwards retired after last season. Davis was his assistant from 2008 through last season.

Justin Hamilton led the Rams with 11 points. Jeremy Hanson and Olajuwon Pierre each scored nine for WSJ.

Javiontay Sylve led Phoenix with 15 points.

Hanson, a freshman, was one of the most active Rams defensively – he forced back-to-back Phoenix turnovers early in the second half and converted a basket off one to help his quickly increase its 11-point halftime advantage.

“We’ve had about three of four days of practice together, but we worked hard and made it count,” Hanson said. “We did a pretty good job trapping them against the sideline and getting turnovers. It felt good to come out and start with a win.”

Hanson hit a jumper in the lane to put WSJ ahead 15-9 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter began with a little defense when Devonte Mitchell blocked a Phoenix shot; Hanson soon made a layup to make it 17-9. Pierre hit a jumper to push the lead to 10.

A Hamilton jumper made it 21-11. Sylve answered with a putback at the other end, but WSJ pushed it to 24-13 at half when Hanson and Hamilton combined for a trio of free throws.

Hanson’s steal and layup kicked off the second half; Mitchell followed with a putback and free throw to make it 29-17. Pierre scored to push the lead to 14. A Pierre steal led to a bucket by Tim Nelson, then Mitchell scored again to make it 35-17.

West St. John led 44-21 at one point.

“I thought we did well,” said Davis. “We’ve still got some things to clean up. A few guys weren’t with us for summer ball. They’re still learning the offense. But we were still able to put in some good work on both ends.”