Hahnville has stayed busy this holiday season — this week marks the third tournament of the month for the Tigers, as they compete at St. James — and that’s the way head boys basketball coach Yussef Jasmine likes it.
Newman, Brother Martin, St. Augustine (twice) twice, John Curtis and Slidell have been among the stiff competition the Tigers have faced, but despite a relative lack of experience, Hahnville’s proving to be quite the test for the opposition as well, and entered the week with a record of 11-6 on the season.
At the recent Newman Invitational, East St. John defeated Brother Martin, host Newman and Country Day en route to the tourney’s championship game, where it fell to a St. Augustine team that entered this week 19-2 on the season.
To get to that final game, Takourin Grows hit what was the eventual game winning layup with 16 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 55-54 win over Country Day, a perennial contender. Against Brother Martin, Hahnville rallied back from an early deficit to win 68-62, then beat Newman decisively, 59-43. But a talented St. Augustine team outlasted the Tigers in the final, 58-48.
“(St. Augustine) executed more than we did … they executed three plays in particular and got three open looks, and that really was the difference,” Jasmine said. “But we beat some pretty good teams and we were right there for a lot of that final.
“I think when you play those tough teams and play those tough players, who are part of that winning culture, and you’re right there with them, it breeds confidence. And it shows we’re right there.”
Sophomores Claudell Harris Jr. and Kaden Pierre were named to the All-Tournament team at Newman, and are part of a young core that has Tigers fans excited for the future — and, as things are progressing, the present as well.
Both players earned time on the varsity court as freshmen last season, and Jasmine called that a relative rarity in 5A basketball.
“Sometimes you’ll see freshmen on the varsity roster to get them a taste or a little experience, but these two played last year. I’ve got a lot of confidence in them,” Jasmine said. “They put in the work and it’s manifesting. These guys have had success at the junior high level, the AAU level and now the varsity level. So I can’t say I’m shocked by it, because I knew they had it in them.”
Jasmine feels his team is on the cusp, one reason he admits he badly wanted last week’s rematch with St. Augustine, a 64-47 loss at the Chalmette tournament, to be a win for his group.
“We cut it to three at the beginning of the second half, but I think they picked up their level and we didn’t match it,” Jasmine said. “They got on a roll and it snowballed. We made a few mistakes, but I think for a lot of that game, as well as the Madison Prep and St. Thomas More games, you could really see how much we’ve grown.”
Among Hahnville’s games at the St. James tournament will be a non-district clash with 7-5A competitor East St. John, where Jasmine coached for nearly a decade before arriving at Hahnville in 2017.
One quirk about the schedule is this will be the second time the district foes have played in tournament action so far this season, with the two official district matchups still to come. Hahnville bested ESJ at the Tigers’ own tournament earlier this season, and the teams will have squared off four times by regular season’s end.
“It’s kind of crazy it works out like that … it was a similar deal last year, when we played them four times,” said Jasmine. “To try and beat a team twice is always tough, but four times is a whole other thing.”