Rams basketball season ends at No. 2 Arcadia

Published 3:22 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

ARCADIA — Much as it did for its season as a whole, No. 15 seed West St. John made things interesting in the second half after falling behind Wednesday night in its Class 1A second-round playoff matchup with No. 2 seed Arcadia.

But the Hornets shook off a third quarter Rams run to lock WSJ down in the fourth quarter, racing ahead and eventually away with a 55-38 victory at home to advance to the Class 1A quarterfinals.

West St. John’s Da’Jon Taylor was one of the Rams’ standouts this season. (Ryan Arena/L'OBSERVATEUR)

West St. John’s Da’Jon Taylor was one of the Rams’ standouts this season. (Ryan Arena/L’OBSERVATEUR)

Arcadia was slated to face No. 7 seed Hamilton Christian Friday night, after press time, for a trip to the state semifinals and Top 28 tournament in St. Charles. The Hornets finished as a state semifinalist last season and as state runner-up in 2012.

A tall task awaited West St. John when it arrived at Arcadia, which hadn’t lost at home game in the past three seasons and was riding an 11-game winning streak.

But the Rams were a confident bunch given its play over the second half of the season. West St. John (10-11) entered the game with 10 wins in their previous 12 games after beginning the season 0-8, not only rallying into the playoffs but into a first-round home game. Its 53-34 win over Ascension Catholic in the bi-district round was West St. John’s first playoff win since 2009 and the first postseason victory in the young three-year career of coach LaVanta Davis.

Davis said Arcadia (27-3) played “like a team that’s been there before,” a reference to the Hornets’ strong basketball tradition, but that his team played with strong effort.

“We missed on some opportunities to score when we drew close (in the third quarter), but defensively we executed what we wanted to for most of that game,” Davis said. “We held their guards in check in the first quarter, but their best scorer (Eric Brown) got loose in the second half. Arcadia was able to keep playing and close out and their mental toughness stood out. Our guys really competed, too, for all four quarters.”

West St. John made a third quarter run to cut an Arcadia lead to six before the Hornets made their final push.

Morell Bartholomew led the Rams with 16 points, and Davis said his star senior turned in one of his best all-around performances of the season.

“He had a strong game,” Davis said. “He rebounded, blocked shots, threw down a couple of monster dunks and led us in scoring. He was ready to play.”

Brown, a returning All-State selection, scored 20 to lead the Hornets.

Davis said his team showed a lot of heart to turn things around after a slow start, and said that once district play hit, his team truly began to gel.

“Morell and Da’Jon (Taylor) really became a formidable duo on the inside for us,” Davis said.

“Everyone’s roles were defined, and they performed them well.”