Rebels take down ESJ

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015


RESERVE — Riverside and East St. John took the court at the Leon Godchaux Jr. High gymnasium Monday night and continued their rivalry in front of a jam-packed crowd of local family, friends and fans.

On this night, it was Herb McGee and the Rebels asserting their claim to local bragging rights.

McGee scored a game-high 29 points, best among five Rebel scorers in double figures, to lead Riverside to a shootout victory, 101-77.

“It means a lot,” McGee said, the junior guard in the midst of his best offensive start to a season as a Rebel. “We come out to prove we’re the best in the parish. There’s a lot of talking that goes on before this game, and we came out to set an early tone.”

Malik Crowfield scored 20 and Von Julien and Jared Butler 19 each to lead Riverside (6-3), which took a commanding early lead and kept up the onslaught throughout the night.

Raekwon McKnight led East St. John (11-6) with 25 points. Troy Green added 17. Tre’Von Jasmine scored nine and Anthony Steer added eight.

It was a simple plan of attack for Riverside, which attacked the rim with abandon and rained 3’s from the outside, all the while pushing the pace in transition whenever the opportunity arose.

Julien scored an early layup to give RA a 10-2 advantage. East St. John threatened to steal some momentum back when Steer threw down an alley-oop jam off a feed from Javon Antonio, but he was whistled for hanging on the rim, resulting in a technical. Julien sank two ensuing free throws. Jasmine hit a pull-up jumper , but Crowfield quickly hit the lane for two more at the other end to make it 16-6. Then Jordan Andrews — who exited the game later in the first half due to injury — sank a 3-pointer to make it 19-6.

Both teams were getting to the foul line with regularity, so Byrd implored his team to attack the lane even more. Riverside led 28-17 in the second quarter after ESJ’s Green scored on a 3-point play, but then the Rebels began to pull away. Crowfield scored on another layup, then Julien drew a foul and sank two at the line, making it 35-17.

Steer answered for ESJ, but the Rebels caught fire from behind the arc to all but put the game away before halftime. RA drilled three straight unanswered from beyond the arc, via Garland Robinson, McGee and Butler to make it 41-19. Another deep shot by Julien to end the half made it 49-23. RA finished the second quarter on a 21-6 run.

“East St. John’s a very good team,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “We were a little worried coming in. It’s a small gym, a different kind, without the sideline and with the crowd right on top of you. We weren’t sure that was going to be advantageous to us … but what more can you say about Von, Herb and Malik? They stepped forward to lead us. And our bench gave us some really terrific play too.”

The only negative for the Rebels in terms of their play, as McGee and Byrd both noted, was on the defensive end.

“77, that’s too many,” said McGee, who has long been who Byrd notes as his top perimeter defender.

“With the way the game was being called, we weren’t going to be able to be too physical defensively,” Byrd said. “It wasn’t the kind of defensive effort we’d like. The good thing about this team is, though, if we’re playing our A-game offensively, we’re capable of winning a game like that.”

The other concern was the health of Andrews, who Byrd said suffered an injury to his knee. Andrews, a Youngstown State signee, is one of Riverside’s top all-around players.

“We’ll have to get him checked out, and we’ll see from there,” Byrd said. “Obviously, until we hear everything checks out OK, we’ll have concern.”

East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine credited Riverside for earning the victory, but also said he wholeheartedly believed his team played well under its usual performance level.

“We’ve played well in big games this year, in the CYO final and even the Newman final,” Jasmine said, noting the two early season tournament championship games the Wildcats split. “Those opponents weren’t Riverside … They’re a very good team. Everyone in our state knows that. But I thought the biggest thing for us was we didn’t have the mental toughness to match them. I feel like we can play with them. The scoreboard, obviously, said otherwise tonight.”

The two teams will rematch Feb. 2 at Riverside.