Destrehan’s Leslie Jefferson began Friday’s game against visiting Terrebonne with a two-handed slam in transition.
It would be far from the last time the Wildcats would turn a defensive stop into points on a night Destrehan ended what was an eight-game winning streak for the Tigers, 60-51.
“We’ve been focusing on playing defense as we’ve begun district play, and that’s what we came out doing tonight,” said Jefferson, who along with his Wildcat teammates employed an effective, attacking press and forced turnovers throughout the night. “We’ll score points, but it starts with defense. That creates our chances … we’ve got to get going on defense and hustle.”
Chris Moore and Jai Thomas each scored 16 points to lead DHS (7-8, 3-1). Jefferson scored nine, as did Kaden Nickelson.
For Terrebonne (15-5, 2-1), Kylan Billiot and Colt Brauns each scored 11. Trey Brauns scored 10 and Rhiange Smith nine.
After a loss to Hahnville to begin District 7-5A play, Friday’s win represented Destrehan’s third win in a row, all in 7-5A – 62-59 win over Central Lafourche and a 49-47 win over H.L. Bourgeois, both at home.
Following the Hahnville loss, DHS head coach Khary Carrell said the difference largely came down to maintaining composure down the stretch – Hahnville did and Destrehan did not – and that it’s something that would need to change quickly if his Wildcats were to start turning close losses into wins.
It seems his players took it to heart. After an 0-5 start to the season against a tough schedule, Destrehan can even its record if it comes away with a victory Friday night at East St. John.
“Coach deserves a shout out, because he’s been telling us we needed to stay under control, keep our composure,” Jefferson said. “Everyone’s gonna come out and compete, it’s basketball, but we’ve got to stay composed and execute.”
Said Carrell, “That bothered me after the Hahnville game, that we kind of fell apart … the last three, the team held it together and is starting to believe. We’ve had to get over the hump in that mental aspect.
“Winning cures all. We’re building some confidence, I’m seeing some smiles now … we’re gonna look to build on it.”
Jefferson’s dunk to start the scoring off ignited what became an 8-1 start for the Wildcats, who never trailed in the game. A pull-up jumper and later a 3 from Jai Thomas helped DHS to a 13-5 advantage, then his putback of a missed shot gave DHS its first double-digit lead at 17-6.
Destrehan kept the pressure on, taking a 32-21 lead into halftime.
Terrebonne quickly cut the lead to six after the halftime break on baskets by Colt Brauns and Kyrin Robinson, the latter a 3, as DHS led 32-26.
The lead jumped to nine before Ayden LeBoeuf’s 3-pointer pulled Terrebonne within six again at 40-34. But Destrehan answered on a strong inbounds play as Darrian Johnson drilled a 3 to push it to 43-34 again.
In the fourth quarter, one of the game’s key stops came when Jefferson took a charge, forcing a Terrebonne turnover, keeping his team ahead by 10. Destrehan took its largest lead on a Moore put-back, 51-37, then Johnson hit a pull-up jumper to make it a 16-point lead.
Terrebonne began to claw back and got back within 10 on Trey Brauns’ score in the lane. Destrehan came up empty at the other end and the Tigers were threatening to make it a tense finish after a 6-0 run. But Moore and Jefferson combined to tip and steal a Terrebonne inbounds pass, and Jefferson sunk two at the line to make the advantage 12. Terrebonne never got closer than the 9-point final margin from there.
“I’m really proud of all my seniors tonight. That was leadership,” Carrell said. “This is a big one for power points, it should give us a little push in the right direction.”