ESJ falls in regional

Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 7, 2014


LAPLACE — For only the second time in their two seasons playing at the Leon Godchaux Jr. High gymnasium, East St. John fell at home on Tuesday night.

It proved to be among the program’s most heartbreaking losses.

A Wildcats season of high expectations came to a sudden end as 10th seeded East Ascension toppled the host No. 7 seed, 69-55 in a Class 5A regional round playoff game. 

6-foot-8-inch center JaCardo Hawkins scored 17 points to go along with 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots to lead the Spartans (23-9), who advanced to the state quarterfinals to face No. 2 seeded Natchitoches Central.

“I couldn’t get my offense going, so I stepped it up on defense,” said Hawkins. “We knew they were an up-tempo team, so we came out to slow them down. We got back and set up our defense to take away the fast break.”

East Ascension (24-9) led for the entirety of the final three quarters after a buzzer-beating 3 by Eric Williams pushed the Spartans ahead at the end of the first quarter.

The Wildcats didn’t go down without a fight. Tre’Von Jasmine led a late-third quarter push that extended into the fourth, cutting into what was a 48-36 East Ascension lead. Jasmine hit a floater to cut it to 10, then made a steal and layup followed by a layup-and-foul for a three-point play to make it 50-43 entering the fourth quarter.

East Ascension led by eight early in the fourth before the first of two major momentum plays sent East St. John (24-6) reeling, both involving offensive fouls. East Ascension drew a charge from ESJ’s Edwin Winston with five minutes remaining — that negated a Winston layup with the score 54-46 and, perhaps more importantly, was the fifth foul of the game for one of ESJ’s “Big Three” scorers. Winston had just hit a corner 3 to cut the deficit to eight.

“That was big. All season, those guys were our big three scorers,” said ESJ coach Yussef Jasmine. “When he went out, we really lost a big part of our inside game. We only had Troy and Tre to really attack the lane at that point.”

Tre’Von Jasmine continued his surge, scoring in transition to make it 54-48, and then Troy Green drew a foul and sank two free throws to make it 54-50. East St. John forced turnovers on back-to-back EA possessions and seemed to be recapturing the momentum.

“We looked a little ragged there,” said East Ascension coach Kenny Almond. 

But as he seemed to do all night, Hawkins made his presence felt. After the second turnover, he blocked a shot in the lane and ignited a fast break, one DD. Jones finished by drawing a foul and sinking two free throws.

Green answered at the other end, but with 3:49 left, a Jasmine layup was negated when the Spartans drew the quarter’s second charge on him.

“Those calls were critical,” said Yussef Jasmine. “But the referees can’t decide a game. We needed to make more shots.”

“They were trying to get to the rack and we knew it, so guys stepped up and took a charge,” said Hawkins. “I blocked some shots when needed. We had to protect the lane.”

Williams drew a foul and made two free throws, and the game started to get away from the Wildcats. A Raekwon McKnight 3-pointer rimmed out with ESJ down seven, then Jones scored again in transition to make it 61-52. 

“We knew that as much pressure as they put on your up front, it gives you a chance to get layups at the other end,” said Almond. 

A Marcel Kelly wing 3 gave ESJ life, but it proved a last gasp. EA broke the ESJ press to find Jones for two, then a Hawkins steal led to two more free throws by Jared Adams. Jasmine missed a 3 and EA took over with 90 seconds remaining, up by 10. ESJ didn’t score again.

East Ascension led by eight early in the first half thanks to some hot shooting by Williams, but ESJ went on an 8-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to one. 

But EA was able to slow things down from there an establish Hawkins inside: he scored twice inside, once converting a three-point play to push the lead to eight again at half.

Yussef Jasmine credited Hawkins as being the big difference.

“We watched them on film and seen them play. We can’t simulate how big he is,” said Jasmine. “I thought defensively, he made the biggest difference. They protected the paint, shut it down.  (Hawkins) changed everything inside.”

East Ascension made a big impact at the foul line, attempting 31 free throws and making 21, contrasted with East St. John making just five of seven. 

Jones finished with 21 points for East Ascension. Williams added 13.

Tre’Von Jasmine scored 21 to lead the Wildcats. Troy Green scored 14 and Winston finished with 13.

For Yussef Jasmine, his program had advanced a round further in each of the last three years, and this was a season earmarked for that Top 28 run.

He called it his “toughest loss” given that, as well as the emotion showed by his players following the loss.

“Our record was better this year, but we didn’t advance further. So that makes it hard,” he said. 

“I know my kids, they’re hurting. They wanted the championship. They gave everything they had.”</p>