Things didn’t look good for East St. John entering the fourth quarter of the Wildcats’ District 7-5A home game against Terrebonne in Reserve on Friday night as both teams were seeking their first league win of the season.
East St. John trailed 63-54 after three quarters but used a strong finish to defeat the Tigers 80-71.
The win moved the Wildcats to 1-4 in district and 8-13 overall. Terrebonne fell to 0-5 in league play and 9-12 overall.
“We have been building to this,” East St. John coach Jackson Manuel said. “The district teams we’ve played, we’ve played them close. We were right there with them but we only did it for three quarters or three-and-a-half quarters. My emphasis to them all week was the finish. We did that tonight.”
“We settled down,” Manuel continued. “What we did offensively, we did with the intent of doing. We have preached all week that offensively, we have to play with intent in mind. We will come down and get this to work, and for a change, we did that.”
The Tigers were unable to score early in the fourth quarter, including missing a few key free throws, and ESJ took advantage.
Trailing throughout the game, East St. John tied the game at 68-68 on a 3-pointer by Jahyrie Victor with 4:11 left in the contest.
A timeout was called after a short jumper by Terrebonne’s Adrian Jones gave the Tigers the lead at 70-68.
Coming out of the timeout, the Tigers went to a half-court press. The Wildcats easily beat the press and a quick 3-pointer Victor gave ESJ its first lead at 71-70.
“One thing we have done very well the entire season is play our press offense,” Manuel said. “Nobody’s press has bothered us this year. Usually, people start throwing presses at you and you become erratic. I think maybe or two times we had that erratic play. We just sured it up and that was it.
“A lot of teams this season didn’t have to press us because we had done a whole lot of crazy things and fell behind. When the games were tight, nobody’s press bothered us.”
A basket by Torryn Smith with less than a minute remaining provided Terrebonne’s only points in the final three minutes.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats hit their free-throws down the stretch to give ESJ the 80-72 triumph.
The game started off as if Terrebonne would be the team to garner its first district win of the season as the Tigers took a 26-18 lead after one quarter.
Terrebonne’s biggest lead of the game was 14 points on an inside basket by Anthony Ruffin for a 32-18 advantage early in the second quarter.
With the Tigers going 1 of 3 from the free-throw line, including missing the front end of two one-and-one situation, the Wildcats started to take advantage, dwindling the deficit to eight points at 35-27.
East St. John managed to trail only 43-41 at halftime when Mark Meredith scored off of an offensive rebound to close the opening half.
The Tigers eventually built their lead up to nine points after three quarters but there would have been no rally by Terrebonne is not for the play of Meredith in the third quarter.
Although Terrebonne rebuilt its lead, Meredith single-handedly kept East St. John in the game in the third quarter, scoring 13 of his team’s 15 points in the quarter.
“Meredith has been our workhorse,” Manuel said. “That young man took this team from the very beginning and put it on his back. The one constant we have had all year, Mark Meredith shows up. We can usually count for him for between 16 and 20-something points a night. That’s consistent every night and he usually will do that with eight, nine or ten rebounds. What I love about him is he scores the old traditional way. He will take it to the basket and the bulk of his points really come from offensive rebounds.”
“He was a good player for them last year,” Terrebonne coach Richard Jones said of Meredith. “He’s a high-energy leader. He was a guy we pinpointed and wanted to give our attention to. Unfortunately, some other guys stepped up and hit shots for them.”
Meredith finished with a game-high 29 points. Kylin Harris had 16 points for East St. John, while Emone Roberson tossed in 15 and Carnell Francois 14.
Ruffin topped Terrebonne in scoring with 21 points, while Keshawn James and Jones added 15 apiece.
It was a tough loss for the Tigers, seeing their potential first district win of the season slip away.
“It’s very heartbreaking. In the locker room, you could hear a pin drop. The kids are upset, the way they should be. I thought overall both teams played their hearts out, but unfortunately, we were on the wrong side,” Jones, the Terrebonne coach, said.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats will seek to build upon Friday’s win.
“I look for the rest of our games to be similar this this. We will just keep working to get the same result,” said Manuel.