Ascension Catholic slips by West St. John
Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 21, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE—Just as West St. John did as it hosted Ascension Catholic Friday night, it led by double figures early in the second half of its Tuesday night district tiebreaker game in Edgard.
But this time, Ascension Catholic had an answer.
Kaleb Winchester’s 16 points paced the Bulldogs in a 50-47 victory at West St. John that sewed up second place in District 8-1A and the power points boost that comes with it for ACHS.
Morell Bartholomew scored 15 points to lead the Rams. Quan Scott scored 13. A returning Jordan Hamilton added five.
Delmond Landry scored 12 for the Bulldogs.
The two teams played one another on Friday night in the regular season district finale, the Rams besting the Bulldogs 63-51 to pull into a second place tie, with each team boasting a 6-4 8-1A record. Ascension Catholic had previously beaten West St. John 65-54 Jan. 28 at Ascension Catholic.
“Coming into the game, we knew we’d be playing the same team but that it wouldn’t be the same team,” said Bartholomew. “Because they lost that one, we knew they’d be ready tonight and they’d adjust.”
With 33 seconds left to play and the score tied at 47, Ascension Catholic’s Gilbert Allen was fouled while leaping for a pass and took a hard fall. Allen sank one of two at the line to push the Bulldogs ahead by one.
At the other end, the Rams (10-11) failed to score and were forced to foul Cleveland Fefe on the rebound. He made both at the line with four seconds left. A long heave from just under halfcourt by the Rams fell no good and Ascension Catholic preserved the win.
Ascension Catholic (15-15) led by five earlier in he fourth when Hamilton’s 3 from the top of the circle tied things up with 3:50 remaining. Landry pushed the Bulldogs back ahead with two at the line, then Scott tied things up with 1:02 left after a slick-looking move and short bank shot.
WSJ led 30-20 after a Scott steal and layup moments into the second half, but then Fefe and Winchester started asserting themselves. Fefe hit a corner 3, then Winchester made a bucket, followed by a Fefe shot inside.
“We just didn’t have the same energy we did early on. I think maybe they were a bit tired,” said West St. John coach Juan Joseph. “Sometimes, you get into a game like this and just need to find a way to pull it out late. Basketball’s like that. We didn’t do that tonight.”
Ascension Catholic tied things up on a Landry putback, then Winchester scored on a transition layup — and that sent the Bulldog fans in attendance into a frenzy.
“He never quits,” said Brown. “My 10th grade point guard, he just took over the game. Then down the stretch, his big man (Landry) told him, ‘Get me the ball and I’ll bring it home.’”
Hamilton answered with two free throws at the other end, then Fefe did the same for ACHS. Bartholomew attempted to snatch the momentum back for his team through his work on the offensive glass, scoring on two key putbacks late in the third quarter, the latter drawing a foul and coming just before time expired. He sank the free throw to make it 37-34.
“23 (Bartholomew) is an excellent ballplayer,” said Ascension Catholic coach Reginald Brown. “If some school at the next level is looking for a small forward, they need to look at him. He can play.”
But this just wasn’t the Rams’ night.
Bartholomew said that despite the loss, a down-to-the-wire playoff-like atmosphere the night provided can only help as the postseason tips off this week.
“We know we’ll be going on the road, and that this is the type of game we’re going to have to win,” he said.
Joseph said that while the team wanted the victory, the loss wasn’t a backbreaker.
“You tip your cap to Ascension Catholic. They played really well and earned it,” said Joseph. “The good thing is that we saw some heartbreak on their faces, which tells you they cared a lot about getting the win.’
“We fell a little short, but whether we’re the 17th seed, 18th seed, 19th seed, it doesn’t matter.’
“We’re gonna have to control the things we can control and beat someone in front of a hostile crowd, and that was going to be the case regardless.”