RESERVE — With a roster full of underclassmen and two lone seniors, East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine said he wasn’t sure how his team would handle the pressures of playing in a first-round Class 5A boys basketball playoff game Tuesday night.
“You never know, you know, when you have young kids,” Jasmine said. “At the end we had two freshmen and a sophomore on the court. You just don’t know if they understand the magnitude of a playoff game.”
Much to his relief, they did just fine.
Posting to senior center Elex Carter, freshman Troy Green scored 16 points, sophomore Tre’Von Jasmine added 15 and freshman Raekwon McKnight scored 10 as the No. 8 seed Wildcats took a 67-59 over No. 25 St. Amant on the Wildcats’ temporary home court at the landmark Leon Godchaux Junior High. Green scored 10 of his points in the final period as East St. John (23-7) had to fight off a pesky St. Amant team.
Mason Clouatre led the Gators with 15 points. Dominique Wilmore scored 13, DeQuincy Deverteuil scored 12 and Jonavon Lewis added 10.
Leading 44-43 to start the final quarter, East St. John lost its lead quickly on a jumper by Wilmore. With a quick succession of 3-pointers, the Gators jumped to a 51-46 lead in the first two minutes of the period. A flurry of turnovers didn’t help the Wildcats, but they still battled back. With 3:41 to play, Green tied the game at 51 with the first of two free throws then put the Wildcats ahead with the second.
A layup by Wilmore made it 53-52 at the 3:29 mark, but East St. John answered with a basket by Green and a free throw by Carter. Clouatre tied it at 54 with a free throw at the 2:58 mark.
But from there, East St. John pulled ahead and stayed there. A layup by Green with 2:44 to play began a 13-5 run for the Wildcats that kept the game out of reach.
East St. John (23-7) advances to the regional round against Jesuit, a 49-37 winner over Central. St. Amant finished 19-13.
As the lone senior on the court at the end, Carter said he was impressed with the play of his younger teammates.
“The babies are stepping up,” he said. “They’re playing like seniors.”
Green said they are playing for their senior teammate.
“We’re doing it all for Elex,” he said.
The site of what once was Reserve’s lone high school, the dated gymnasium came under scrutiny before the game as St. Amant coach Gary Duhe questioned the legality of the court for the playoffs to the game’s referees. Specifically, Duhe questioned the lack of space between the court lines and the walls, which, by rule, must be three feet. The game was delayed several minutes as the coaches and principals from both schools discussed the situation with the referees. Ultimately, the court was cleared for play.
Duhe was unavailable for comment after the game.