Rams make summer count in hoops

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EDGARD — A big part of season preparation for West St. John’s girls basketball team has been what has annually become a tough-as-nails summer slate of summer league opponents.

The Lady Rams are playing regularly at Warren Easton, where they’ve gone 2-3 against a slate including Warren Easton, East St. John, Grace King and McDonogh No. 35. Each of those teams plays in Class 4A or 5A, and WSJ has faced Warren Easton, which went 34-1 last season, twice.

“I’ve been pleased so far,” Rams coach Lester Smith said. “Our guards have really played well. We’re going to miss (senior guard) JuJuan Nicholas, but we feel good about some young players coming up.”

West St. John was led by a scoring triple threat of Maya Trench, Nicholas and Jaquanna Hunter last season. Though Nicholas has graduated, Trench and Hunter will return. Smith said he is looking for good things from freshman guard Nazel Breaux, senior forward Alynn Becnel and senior power forward Christina Holmes.

“We’re hoping to see a few people step up and assert themselves,” Smith said.

The Lady Rams have continued what has become a strong tradition of success in recent years. West St. John has advanced to at least the state quarterfinals in each of the past five seasons, with a trip to the state semifinals in 2012 and a state runner-up finish in 2013. Over that span, WSJ has been close to unbeatable at home. Last season, WSJ finished 26-6.

The summer league Rams have already shown great improvement. In the team’s first faceoff with Warren Easton, the Class 4A state champions won by 30; in a rematch between the teams, the Rams fell again, but this time by only one.

“We had good shots in that first game, but we just couldn’t hit,” Smith said. “Those shots were going down in the second one, and that was really the difference more than anything.”