Wildcats roll to 11th straight, top Tarpons
Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — Make it 11 in a row for the East St. John Wildcats.
East St. John’s Edwin Winston scored 22 to lead the way as the Wildcats coasted to a decisive 72-42 District 7-5A victory over visiting South Lafourche Friday night.
Marcel Kelly scored 10 and Tre’Von Jasmine eight for the Wildcats, who remain undefeated in 7-5A play and alone in first place. Arlandrian Martin added six.
After three days off from school due to the weather and their last game taking place on Monday, East St. John was hyped to take the court, said Winston.
“We were ready,” he said with a smile. “Coach had us in the gym (Thursday). We’ve been pumped up.
End of the quarter spurts ultimately turned the game into a blowout. The Wildcats (18-4, 8-0) finished each period on a run: 7-0 to end the first, 9-2 to end the second, 6-0 to end the third and 10-4 to cap the fourth.
Kelly, who was playing in just his third game since being declared eligible to take the court, was in the middle of each of the first two runs. The game was tied 10-10 near the end of the first quarter when he made a steal and converted a three-point play, then scored on a layup inside set up by a Jhyron Jackson steal to make it a 17-10 ESJ lead at the end of the first.
“We stressed before the game that it was important for us to get out and run,” said ESJ coach Yussef Jasmine. “Focus on defense and get out in transition. We had a lot of assists tonight. E.J. (Winston) got a lot of baskets off of our penetration into the lane.”
A monster two-handed dunk in transition from Troy Green got East St. John rolling in the second quarter. That basket put ESJ up 23-12 with 5:30 remaining in the first half. ESJ led by 12 when Kelly came up big again, sinking a corner 3 with 1:09 left, then making a layup off his own steal to put ESJ up 15.
“I know we’ve got five starters, but we really feel like we’ve got more like seven or eight,” said Jasmine. “We’ve got Marcel back now … In my opinion, your guard play has to be especially strong to win a state championship, and we’ve got an abundance of guys who can play in our backcourt. Tonight, our bench showed again how productive it can be.”
Monterio Cage’s 3-pointer as time ran down in the half gave ESJ a 37-21 halftime advantage.
From there, Winston helped the Wildcats put things away, the frontcourt star scoring 16 of his team’s 22 third quarter points via a combination of put backs, strong inside moves and the transition game. South Lafourche had no answer, and ESJ led 59-33 at the end of the third, all but officially putting things away.
“It brings their confidence down,” said Winston of his team’s late-quarter spurts. “That’s what we look to do. We try to crush ‘em before they can regroup.”
Brady Williams scored nine to lead South Lafourche (7-15, 1-7). Shakerrin Dillon added eight.
Winston credited the team’s guards for stepping up in a big way, noting that’s been a major factor in the team’s win streak.
“We’ve been trying to lower our turnovers, even from last year,” said Winston. “We’ve got our core players back for the most part. We’re focusing on the little things that you need to take care of to win a state championship. That’s the goal.”
Jasmine alluded to some of those specific little things as well with respect to an overall goal: to keep pushing for more.
“We called a time out late to remind our guys … We’ve got a defensive goal to hold a team under 40 points,” said Jasmine. “So we allowed 42 tonight. You win the game, but for us, it’s all about getting to that next level. We talk about that constantly. Keep raising the bar.”