Wildcats deliver victory

Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 11, 2013



RESERVE — Defeating a battle-tested Higgins team was the task set in front of host East St. John as it prepared for its season opener Tuesday night — the Hurricanes, like the Wildcats, had played a pre-district schedule full of heavy hitters and, like the Wildcats, had landed their share of victories in those games.

But it became clear early on who would find themselves with a leg up in the District 8-5A race. East St. John charged out to a 13-3 lead and never looked back, besting Higgins, 60-44, at the Leon Godchaux gymnasium.

Tre’Von Jasmine and Kyle Patterson each scored 15 points to lead ESJ. Raekwon McKnight added 10.

“We know we have to come out and be aggressive early,” said Jasmine. “We want to make a statement … The way we’re playing right now, I feel like we’re going to win district. Everyone came out to support us tonight, so we knew we had to come out with the win.”

East St. John has now won six of its last seven games and has skyrocketed to the No. 7 spot in the Class 5A power point rankings. All but one of those seven games came against a team ranked in the top 14 in their classification in power points.

Melvin Frazier scored 13 to lead the Hurricanes (9-5, 0-1). Shane Walker and Daivon Sullivan each scored eight.

East St. John (13-6, 1-0) never trailed after taking an early 4-3 lead, despite fighting through foul trouble in the first half — most notably, the Wildcats had to play stretches without center Elex Carter, the team’s defensive anchor.

“We wanted to get the ball inside and get 33 (Carter) in foul trouble. We did that, but we just didn’t take advantage,” said Higgins coach Marshall Jackson. “We had our chances.”

Despite the foul issues of Carter and his teammates, the Wildcats defense did not lose aggressiveness and maintained its trademark stinginess throughout. East St. John held Higgins to just nine first quarter points and 19 in the first half, taking a 28-19 lead into the half.

East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine said he felt the difference was the depth the Wildcats bring to the table; when key players sit, others step in as difference makers.

“I thought we played through adversity tonight,” he said.  “Higgins came in here, a team ranked real high … We knew they were really athletic. Everyone was in foul trouble with the exception of Kyle and Tre, but the guys off of our bench did real well. We feel like we can legitimately play 10 or 11 people and keep going strong.”

He said limiting Frazier and Shawn Jones, the Hurricanes’ most dangerous scorers on the season, was a big part of the plan. Jones was held to six points on the night.

“We know 1 (Jones) is a good player and that 35 (Frazier) is a great athlete. We couldn’t let (Frazier) get going inside,” he said. “We did a good job on those guys, especially 1 … that’s a testament to how our guys embraced and executed the gameplan.”

ESJ led 22-10 in the first half before Higgins made a push. A tricky layup by Frazier made it 24-17, then an offensive rebound and putback by Walker made it 24-19.

But the Wildcats held the Hurricanes off, answering first with a Tre’Von Jasmine leaner and then a Kendall Jackson layup as time expired in the first half.

ESJ increased the lead back to 12 early in the third quarter on a layup by McKnight. A Patterson score and a pair of free throws by Edwin Winston gave the Wildcats a 37-23 lead, their largest of the night to that point. A pull-up jumper by Jasmine made it a 16-point game, and a pair of inside buckets by Carter helped keep it there.

Carter’s turnaround jumper to begin the fourth quarter made it 47-31, and Higgins didn’t challenge from there, coming within 12 and no closer.

“Everyone did their part,” said Tre’Von Jasmine. “I thought we just played harder than they did tonight.

EAST ST. JOHN 42, COUNTRY DAY 39 – Tre’Von Jasmine made two free throws with 19 seconds left to help ESJ salt away a victory at Country Day (10-6) last weekend.

Jasmine finished the game with a team-high 15 points.