Down one at halftime, Jeffery Jones let his team have it in the locker room.
The Madison Prep coach told his team if they wanted to be Division I players, they should be able to put the team on their backs and carry them to victory. While he was addressing the whole group, he was talking specifically to Josh LeBlanc and Kobe Julien.
The message was received loud and clear.
LeBlanc and Julien exploded in the second half of Tuesday night’s game against Jehovah-Jireh to lead Madison Prep to a 68-61 victory in the first varsity basketball game played at Istrouma High since the school reopened this fall. The Indians are playing junior varsity basketball this season and next season.
Julien, who’s committed to play at Louisiana-Lafayette, led the Chargers with 28 points, including the final free throws that ended any comeback dreams the Warriors might have had. He was 9 of 18 from the floor.
LeBlanc, who will play at Georgetown next year, posted a double-double in just the second half with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a pair of blocks. He finished with 23 points, going 9 of 11 from the field.
“I think we started off pretty slow,” Julien said. “I believe we overlooked them, and they came out with a lot of energy and it caught us off guard.
“But in the second half, we shook back and played like we’re supposed to play.”
Jones didn’t quite agree with Julien’s assessment of Jehovah-Jireh (10-1) catching the Chargers (3-0) off guard, saying the slow start was more because of the fact Madison Prep only played two games before Tuesday.
The defending Class 2A state champions are still working out some early-season chemistry issues and it took until about halftime to settle into a rhythm.
“Jehovah-Jireh is an amazing team. They’re going to win a lot of ball games,” Jones said. “We were very fortunate to get out of here with a win tonight.”
Jehovah-Jireh, with its up-tempo brand of basketball that got the Warriors to last season’s Class C state final, stayed close throughout the second half. The Warriors were never down by double digits, but couldn’t overtake Madison Prep in the end.
Jones singled out Donald Johnson for nearly single-handedly winning the game for the Warriors with 17 points. He was joined by teammate Jaron Davis, who scored 19 points.
The Warriors shot 21 of 47 from the field.
“I thought our kids played great,” Jehovah-Jireh coach Dirk Ricks said. “We had a good game plan and we stuck to it for the most part. (Madison Prep’s) better players stepped up in crunch time with key rebounds and put-backs that kind of hurt us. Overall, I’m happy with our performance.”