St. James falls in semifinals

Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 14, 2014


LAPLACE — St. James shook off an early blow from Lakeview to stay within striking distance for three quarters. But in the end, a deep, talented Gators team wore the Wildcats down as Lakeview advanced to the Class 2A championship game with an 81-58 win Thursday in Lake Charles.

“It was David vs. Goliath,” said St. James coach James Smith. “In the end, we just ran out of rocks.”

Tay Hardy scored a game-high 28 points to lead the second seeded Gators (28-4), who are set to face Riverside in today’s state championship game. 

Lakeview, the No. 2 seed in Class 2A, led 54-42 after three quarters before outscoring No. 14 seed St. James 27-16 in the final frame. 

Each team turned the ball over 24 times in the game, but Lakeview won the battle on the boards, 41-34, and attacked the rim relentlessly en route to the foul line. Hardy made 10-of-12 free throws, leading a Lakeview team that made 19-of-32 at the line compared to just 8-of-19 for St. James.

Senior Jason Favorite led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points. Jonathan favorite added 11. 

Lakeview began the game on an 18-3 run, but St. James (20-12) settled down from there behind its defense and Jonathan Favorite, who rattled off three straight baskets to cut the deficit to 18-9. 

“I thought they did a really good job breaking our press after than initial run,” said Lakeview coach Josh Hancock. “From there, we switched up our defense and I thought our 2-3 zone kept them out of the paint.”

On a number of occasions, Lakeview appeared primed to take off and finish things, but the Wildcats kept fighting back and making plays. After a 6-0 Lakeview second quarter run put the Gators up by 12, Jason Favorite drew a foul, sank two free throws, then made a bucket and drew an “and-one” for a three-point play. Another 3-point play by Favorite just before halftime kept the Wildcats within single digits entering the break, 36-27. 

St. James pulled within four early in the third quarter, but Lakeview quickly bumped that back up to 13, capping an 11-2 run with a Brent Toussant dunk.

Buckets by Jason Favorite and Lowell Narcisse again cut the lead down to nine, but from there Lakeview took off. It led by 12 entering the fourth quarter and began the final period on a 7-0 run—a jumper by Travion Kirkendoll, a 3-point play by Hardy, and finally an emphatic jam by Adrio Bailey, putting Lakeview up by 19 with 6:29 left and all but putting to rest St. James’ hopes of advancing. 

“We didn’t play our kind of ball,” said senior D’Kwan Sandolph. “We played Lakeview’s tempo, not ours.”

Lakeview’s length proved a nuisance to St. James’ shooters. The Wildcats went 0-12 from 3-point range and shot 32 percent from the field overall. 

But St. James leaves the season with plenty to be proud of, noted Wildcats’ coach James Smith. The Wildcats went 13-4 in 2014, once getting its roster together after football season, and made the program’s first trip to the Top 28 tournament since it finished as state runner-up in 2001. 

“The pride here is being restored,” said Smith, also alluding to the football team’s state quarterfinal run after a pair of winless seasons. “We’re back to where we feel like St. James really should be. It’s been a revival.”

Added Sandolph, “We missed too many layups and free throws today. But we made it this far, and most teams can’t say that.”

The Wildcats graduate five seniors in 2014, including Jason and Jonathan Favorite, brothers who played together for the first time since their freshman season.

“We lost a few years, but playing together with him meant the world,” said Jason Favorite. “I consider D’Kwan (Sandolph) a brother as well … finishing off with these guys was unbelievable.”

Added Jonathan, “It was really special. Not many people have that kind of opportunity.”