Wildcats fall in 1st round; Rebels roll through Catholic-N.I.

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RESERVE — Even after a quarter of play was completed, fans still packed the hallway entrance to the East St. John gymnasium Friday night trying to get in to see the highly-anticipated Class 5A bi-district playoff game between the No. 14 seeded Wildcats and the No. 19 seeded Bonnabel Bruins.

By the time those folks finally did get in, this one was over.

Bonnabel came out with an aggressive attack, forcing turnovers and scoring seemingly at will to take a 10-0 lead before the Wildcats even knew what was happening. East St. John would not score until the 4:27 mark when Kemon McGuffy sank a pair of free throws. By then, the Wildcats already were shell-shocked and frustrated. They would not find a way to recover.

“Bonnabel came out hot,” East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine said. “We just turned the ball over too much. We didn’t make shots. They just out-executed us. They executed exactly what they wanted to do.”

Jasmine said the Wildcats were out-sized as well as outplayed by the Bruins, and as frustrations mounted, he tried to get his team to settle down.

“I tried to get them to relax early on when we were turning the ball over too much,” he said. “I kept trying to tell them there was a lot of game to play, but they were getting so frustrated it was hard to manufacture shots.”

Bonnabel led 16-8 after the first quarter and 33-18 at the half.

The teams scored evenly in the second half, but the Wildcats had dug themselves too deep a hole.

Troy Green led the Wildcats scoring with 17 points. Javon Antonio followed with 12.

Just down the road however, the sneaker was on the other foot as No. 2 seed and three-time defending Class 2A state champion Riverside Academy easily handled No. 31 seed Catholic of New Iberia 95-43.

The hot-shooting Rebels (25-5) hit 15 3-pointers in the game to overwhelm the visiting Panthers (11-13). Jared Butler led the scoring with 20 points. Malik Crowfield scored 19 and Herb McGee scored 17.

“I thought we played really well,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “We kept up the momentum in the second half and, by the end of the third quarter, we had all our starters out and the bench stepped up and played very good.”

With the win, Riverside advanced to the regional round against No. 15 Lakeview, the team Riverside defeated in the last two state championship games.

Played Tuesday night, the Rebels defeated Riverside 62-52.

Byrd said it doesn’t matter who his team plays, it’s not difficult to get the Rebels revved up — especially this season when they suffered some tough losses to teams they normally handle and got off to an 0-3 start.

“There was one week there where we lost to two weaker opponents in one week,” Byrd said. “They know that if they don’t come to play and take care of business, they can be beat. They know there are teams standing in their way.”

While Riverside’s season continues on, East St. John is left to look back on a season of ups and downs.

The Wildcats also had a rough start, but eventually found their rhythm and won the District 6-5A championship with just one loss.

Jasmine said some friends in his coaching circle told him they never thought the team they saw in November had a chance to do that.

“I think we overachieved and underachieved in the same season,” Jasmine said. “It was rewarding because we came so far. When we started out, we were a bad team. We found what worked to win a tough district, but we underachieved because going into the playoffs we felt we had all the momentum, then we lose in the first round.”