Defense keys Ladycats win to open district

Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

RESERVE — Prior to his team’s District 8-5A opener against Higgins, East St. John girls basketball coach Jackson Manuel said the Hurricanes were one of the district contenders that concerned him the most.
But when the Ladycats play defense like they did in the second half Tuesday night, Manuel has relatively few concerns.
ESJ held Higgins to 14 second-half points — and just six in the first 10:40 of the final half — on its way to a 53-39 victory at the Leon Godchaux gymnasium.
“We came out knowing we had to keep them from scoring inside,” said sophomore Da’Rae Taylor, who scored 15 points. “In the locker room at halftime, we thought about all the giveaways we had. We cut those out and kept them out of the lane on defense.”
Manuel said that another key was slowing down Higgins guard Kabreia White, who hit three jumpers in the late first and second quarters before going scoreless in the second half.
“She started hitting a few on us, and we wanted to take her out of the equation,” said Manuel. “When they couldn’t get the ball to 10 (White), that really disrupted their flow.”
Brishane Haynes scored 16 to lead East St. John (13-7, 1-0). Kannisha Brooks scored nine.
Brianna Burras scored 12 to lead the Hurricanes (7-9, 0-1). Kiera Jackson scored eight and White scored seven.
After a Burras layup tied the game for Haynes to begin the second half, ESJ began to assert itself. Taylor stole the ball and converted a layup to make it 29-27, then Brooks scooped up a loose ball in the paint and converted to make it a four-point margin.
A Myjiel Wilson steal led to her own fastbreak layup for Higgins at the other end, but Crystal Kemp pushed the lead back to 33-29 with a layup of her own.
Taylor made a free-throw and then a runner to make it 36-29; it ignited her, as she scored seven straight Wildcat points, the final two on a leakout layup that made it 40-31 at the end of the third quarter.
“We extended our 2-3 zone for a little bit and matched up … I don’t think they recognized that look as a 2-3 and started to execute their man offense,” said Manuel. “We started to get turnovers off of that.”
Higgins coach Dwight Watson also pointed to turnovers as the key factor.
“We went cold and started turning it over,” said Watson. “We beat ourselves with those turnovers.
“You can’t do it, because that team’s going to take advantage.”
Taylor found Haynes for a layup to begin the fourth. ESJ’s Nya Duhe made a big defensive play at the other end, blocking a shot that ignited a fastbreak; Jermani Thompson scored on a putback there to make it 44-31.
Higgins never got it within single digits from there, trailing by as many as 18 down the stretch.
Most of the Wildcats’ points came in the lane, with very few coming off of the jumper.
“That’s the direction we’re trying to move toward,” said Manuel. “Not settling for those long jumpers. We can get better shots.”
Manuel said that Higgins’ length and commitment to rebounding was something that made him wary, but he was pleased with how his team responded.
“I thought we did a good job of taking it to them in that area tonight. We played tough,” said Manuel.