Having already faced District 7-5A foe and River Parishes rival East St. John twice this season — winning both handily — Destrehan High School pretty much knew what to expect from the visiting Wildcats in Friday night’s girls Class 5A bidistrict playoff game.
But Destrehan coach Angi Butler certainly didn’t expect the performance she got from her No. 4 seeded Wildcats, certainly not the turnovers, fouls missed shots, missed rebounds and missed opportunities Destrehan gave up early. But, to no one’s surprise, Destrehan did eventually begin to play the way it was expected to and rolled to a 77-50 victory against No. 29 seed East St. John.
Destrehan (24-2) advances to the regional round and will host No. 13 seed Covington at 7 p.m. Monday. Covington defeated No. 20 Fontainebleau 52-37 Thursday night.
“If we just play our kind of ball we should be fine,” Butler said of Monday’s matchup.
But for most of the first half of Friday’s game, that’s not what the Wildcats did. It didn’t bode well when Destrehan turned the ball over on its first possession when a player stepped out of bounds just 30 seconds into the game — the first of many mistakes the Wildcats made early. And for much of the first half, sophomore standout Cara Ursin was boxed in by East St. John’s Kennisha Brooks.
But Ursin eventually found a way to break out of the box. She scored 16 of her game-leading 23 points in the second half to help the Wildcats take control of the game.
“When I was warming up I was shooting a lot of outside shots,” Ursin said. “So I was expecting to be open to shoot the ball. But once they box-and-one’d me, I was like, well I can’t shoot the ball over a girl who was right in my face. So I had to do something else to put the ball in the hole. I just tried to create more space for myself. But she just stayed on me.”
Kiki Kenner finished with 13 points for Destrehan, Brandi Mason scored 12 and Jerlicia Morris added 11.
East St. John was led by senior Darae Taylor’s 18 points. Brooks finished with 14 points.
Fortunately for Destrehan, East St. John was unable to capitalize on most of its mistakes for most of the game. The visiting Wildcats were 2-of-7 from the free throw line in the first quarter. They weren’t all that effective from the field either, letting Destrehan take control early and stay a step ahead. Destrehan jumped to a quick 7-0 lead and never trailed on the way to a 15-10 first quarter lead.
Then Destrehan got rolling with a 9-2 run to start the second quarter, including a pair of second chance baskets by Ursin. A 3-pointer by Jasmine Morris gave Destrehan a 24-13 lead with 4:46 remaining in the first half. East St. John managed to outscore Destrehan 11-9 in the remainder of the quarter when it started hitting free throws, but still trailed 35-24 at the half.
East St. John did start the third quarter with a strong push, cutting Destrehan’s lead to 37-30 on a jumper by Briana Thompson with 5:09 to play. But that was the closest East St. John would get thanks to a pair of baskets by Destrehan’s Lamitra Wells. Destrehan would outscore East St. John 14-6 the rest of the way through the quarter.
“We tried everything we could think of,” said East St. John coach Jackson Manuel.