Lady Cats keep season going, best Tigers

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2015


RESERVE — East St. John’s Da’Rae Taylor wasn’t ready for her season to end Friday night. Neither were her teammates.

On Friday night, they all but assured it didn’t.

Taylor led a 19-0 run in the third quarter to break things open for East St. John as it defeated Thibodaux, 70-59, in a game that wrapped up second place in District 7-5A and likely cemented a playoff berth.

The contest represented a virtual playoff game between the two teams, with ESJ (18-7, 11-3) ranked 30th and Thibodaux (16-10, 9-5) ranked 31st in Class 5A power points, according to

“The playoffs started for us (Friday),” East St. John coach Jackson Manuel said.

Kennisha Brooks scored 24 to lead ESJ. Taylor and Brianna Thompson each scored 17. Karriontae Victor added seven.

Taylor spent much of the second quarter in foul trouble after earning her second and third fouls defending Thibodaux’s Jewel Triggs, who finished with a game-high 30 points.

“Jewel is an awesome player, and we had to find a way to slow her down,” Taylor said. “She was killing us in the first half. She was doing it all.”

But in the third quarter, despite those fouls, Taylor began to wreak havoc defensively. ESJ trailed 31-27 at halftime, but tied the game on two Taylor free throws. She then made a clean steal at halfcourt and dished to Brooks underneath, who made one of two at the line to give the Wildcats a one-point advantage. Taylor made another steal, then scored on a layup and drew a foul to push the lead to 38-34.

“I was playing too fast in the first half, and coach told me I needed to slow down,” Taylor said. “I knew my team needed me. When I’m up, my team’s up.”

Victor drilled a 3 from the top of the circle to extend the lead to seven, then Taylor made another steal and layup to make it 43-34.

“This was do or die for us,” Taylor said. “We want to win a championship. I want it for my team. We needed this to get in (the playoffs). We said before the game, we can’t lose tonight.”

Working with a lead, ESJ was able to space the floor and extend Thibodaux’s defense. That opened the lane for Brooks and Thompson, and the Ladycats rode their interior scorers into the fourth quarter. Brooks scored on a pair of layups and Thompson nailed a short jumper before the end of the fourth, and ESJ led 51-34, finishing the third on a 19-0 run.

“We know where our strength lies,” Manuel said. “It’s on the inside and in our ability to pressure … We switched defenses a few times, then made the adjustment on (Triggs).”

ESJ went to a “diamond and one” defense focusing on stopping Triggs, who was nearly unstoppable for stretches and earned a living at the foul line.

Victor was a big key there, Manuel said.

“She did a superb job (defending Triggs),” he said.

Thibodaux turned up its own pressure defense and made a fourth quarter run, cutting the lead to nine late after two Courtney Clark baskets.

But that was as close as the Tigers came. And now East St. John looks to make a postseason run.

“This team is growing up,” Manuel said. “We’re not there yet. But when you consider we were starting three freshman at one point, seeing how they came together (Friday) is really promising.”