ESJH coach preps team for Destrehan weeks after giving birth

Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

RESERVE — To be clear, East St. John High School girls basketball coach Stasha Thomas-James has not been hiding a basketball under her blouses this season.

The coach of the Lady Wildcats went into her fourth season with many expectations, one of them the impending birth of her first child.

Little Ryan James entered the world on Jan. 4, just hours after his mom’s team defeated H.L. Bourgeois, 87-32.

Thankfully, she did not go into labor on the bench.

East St. John High coach Stasha Thomas-James gave birth to her first child, Ryan James, on Jan. 4, just hours after a victory over H.L. Bourgeois.

East St. John High coach Stasha Thomas-James gave birth to her first child, Ryan James, on Jan. 4, just hours after a victory over H.L. Bourgeois.

“I was already scheduled to go in that day,” she said. “After the game, I went home and got my stuff together, then we went to the hospital. He was born at 1:12 p.m. the next day.”

So for the last two weeks, the team has been under the direction of the assistant coaches, including Thomas-James’ dad Wilbert Thomas and her husband, Roy James, along with Kerwin Jackson and Jamal Breaux.

Thomas-James watched the action on  the Hudl sports app.

“It was hard,” she said. “I was very confident in their abilities. I just like things done a certain way.”

Apparently, they handled it well. The LadyCats came into the weekend with a record of 16-4 and 5-0 in district play with a non-district game against Cohen scheduled for Friday night.

They have won their last five games, including dominating victories against Central Lafourche (74-32), Bourgeois (87-32), Thibodaux (75-41), Hahnville (72-24) and Terrebonne (72-17).

“We’ve been playing pretty good,” Thomas-James said. “Every game it seems like we’re in the 70s.”

As of this week they were ranked No. 8 in the power rankings, a high for the team in recent years. Last year the LadyCats squeaked into the Class 5A playoff bracket at No. 29.

They will technically open the second round of District 7-5A play Tuesday at Central Lafourche, but have their sights set on Wednesday night’s first battle of the Wildcats from Destrehan.

The other Wildcats went into the weekend undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state, and they still have Baylor commitment Cara Ursin. East St. John has not beaten their rival in recent memory.

None of that intimidates Thomas-James.

“Like I told the girls, they put their pants on just like us,” Thomas-James said. “I think everybody gets so caught up in the hype of East St. John and Destrehan. It’s going to be a good competition. We’ll match up. My girls are responding, even when I’m not here.”

Also on tap Wednesday night is the rescheduled game between Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic. It will be the first time former Riverside coach Kathy Luke, now the coach of the Lady Comets, takes on her former team.

Riverside was 11-10 following a 38-31 non-district loss to Dominican on Wednesday. The Lady Rebels had won their previous three games.

They were scheduled to host Country Day Friday night.

St. Charles was 10-6 after Tuesday night’s 35-28 loss to St. Mary’s Academy. The Lady Comets were scheduled to play at West St. John Friday night.

The West St. John Lady Rams were 14-7 after a 47-27 win over Country Day Tuesday night. That followed a disappointing 34-28 loss to St. Mary’s on Jan. 13.

Coach Lester Smith said the Cougars shot 39 free throws in the game, hitting on 19.

“We had a chance to win it,” Smith said. “They just made their free throws.”

Smith said it has been a rocky season with a young group trying to fill the hole left by the graduated Maya Trench, now a freshman starter at Xavier University.

“I knew it was going to be a roller coaster,” he said. “We’re still young. At first we were making a lot of mistakes, turning the ball over a lot. Now we’re not turning it over as much. We’re still kind of learning how to play. I’ve just got to be a little bit patient.”

The Rams were scheduled to host SCC Friday and travel to Riverside Academy Tuesday.