Rams back to the top 28

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013



EDGARD – Top-ranked West St. John has eyed a return trip to the Ladies Top 28 tournament all season long.

And now, the Lady Rams have got it.

For the third consecutive postseason game, a buzz saw of a Rams team put its opposition away early, this time outscoring 8th seeded Hanson 22-3 in the first quarter en route to a 60-44 Class 1A quarterfinal victory Monday night at West St. John.

“We’re going back. Hopefully the second time should be the charm,” said West St. John coach Lester Smith. “This is what we’ve worked all year for.”

The Rams advance to the state semifinals, where they will face a familiar foe in Central Catholic. West St. John defeated Central Catholic in last season’s quarterfinal round, when Central Catholic was the classification’s top seed. Central Catholic defeated Tensas in the quarterfinals – Tensas defeated West St. John in last season’s state semifinals.

That game is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at Southeastern in Hammond.

It marks the second straight season West St. John (30-1) has reached the state semifinals, last season’s Rams team the first ever to advance that far.

Senior guard Jaylyn Gordon scored a game-high 24 points while adding five steals and four assists in front of a jam-packed West St. John crowd. It was the first time WSJ has ever hosted a state quarterfinal, and it was the biggest turnout ever for a girls basketball game in Edgard – the school band was moved from its traditional place in the stands to the stage area to add more available seating.

“It feels great to know we’re going back there,” said Gordon. “Now, we’ve just gotta finish it once we get there.”

Maya Trench scored 15 points for the Rams and added nine assists. Jujuan Nicholas scored nine points and added three steals.

The Rams have gotten off to a fast start in all three of their postseason games. They’ve outscored their three playoff foes in the first quarter by a combined score of 77-14.

“I’ve been telling them, ‘Don’t let them think they can play with you,’” said Smith. “Don’t let them hang around.”

Gordon showed off the whole repertoire in the first four minutes of action, scoring in every way possible. She drove and drew a foul and sank two free throws to start the game. Then she canned a deep 3-pointer from the wing before going into the post and working for another bucket.

 After WSJ’s Jujuan Nicholas made a backcourt steal and layup, Gordon slashed to the hole for two more points to make it 11-1. She capped a 13-1 run with one of the night’s most impressive plays –  in one motion, she stole a pass just beyond midcourt and passed it to an open Trench for a layup.

“We’re having fun,” said Gordon. “These are the types of games you want to play in. When we’re out there just having fun, everything comes easy.”

Hanson didn’t score a field goal until the 3:09 mark of the first quarter. A Nicholas 3-pointer sparked a 9-0 Rams run to end the first quarter.

The Rams led 40-18 at halftime.

“The film didn’t do that team justice,” said Hanson coach Dustin Cole. “They were very impressive. The first quarter just killed us tonight. If we don’t play with the early nerves and play for a full game like we did in the second half, it probably looks a lot better for us. But being down 20 to that team is like being down 40 to others.”

Hanson (20-11) regrouped in the second half, refusing to let the game truly get out of hand. The Rams led by as many as 27 after a Donasia Bell 3-pointer from the corner put the Rams ahead 45-18 early in the third quarter. But Hanson’s Emily Sonnier and Brittany Broussard got going, combining to score 12 third quarter points. Hanson still trailed by 20 in the fourth quarter before a jumper by Sonnier and a layup by Broussard made it 55-39. A steal and a layup by Katie Sonnier got Hanson as close as 14.

But with three minutes left, the Rams were able to start killing clock behind two of the best ballhandlers in the state in Gordon and Trench.

“When we got to about three minutes left, I knew we could hold on,” said Smith. “At that point, we can freeze the ball, and I know with our guards doing that, (Hanson) wasn’t going to have many more possessions.”

Emily Sonnier finished with 15 while Broussard finished with 12.

The game provided a fitting stage for Gordon and her senior teammates to play their last home game in a Lady Rams uniform. The Rams never lost at home this season, finishing a perfect 12-0.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Gordon. “It’ll hit me later on tonight that I’ll never play a game here again.”

But her business with the Rams is far but finished.

“To win a ring, that’s something that’s never been done here (in girls basketball),” said Gordon. “It would feel great.

“I think last year prepared us (for the Top 28). And also the big crowds we’ve played in front of at home the last few games. I don’t think anyone will be scared of playing in front of that.”

Among those in Monday’s big crowd were a number of former Lady Rams, each offering congratulations to Smith, their former coach.

 That meant a great deal to Smith, who said that those players should know that they helped make the team’s success today possible.

“The kids I had here before, they fought for this program,” said Smith. “They could have given up and let the program fold. For them to keep coming back, it lets me know that they won’t forget me. I know I’ll never forget them.”