As painful as last season’s playoff loss to eventual 5A boys basketball champion Thibodaux was, it seems to have made the Hahnville Tigers that much more hungry, experienced and confident that they belong.
The Tigers went 6-2 during a summer slate of games at McDonogh 35 in New Orleans, facing off with a slate of teams including Jesuit, Carver, St. Augustine, Brother Martin, Helen Cox and John Ehret among others.
For head coach Yussef Jasmine, he is preparing his Tigers for what will be his third season at the helm as their head coach. In season one, the Tigers went to the playoffs and hosted a first round game, but lost in a close battle with Walker.
Last season, Hahnville took it a step further, besting Lafayette on the road in round one and having the chance to host top seeded Thibodaux in Boutte. Hahnville was not intimidated by their powerful competition and took the game to Thibodaux, leading by nine with seven minutes left. But Thibodaux rallied from there, led in part by the spirited play of point guard Kobi Johnson.
“I think our guys saw the difference senior leaders can make,” said Jasmine. “Going into this season, we have a team of guys who want to be accountable. In that Thibodaux game, their seniors, (Johnson) especially, decided ‘we’re not going to lose this game.’ His leadership brought them to the top and my guys, I think, started really understanding that Coach can tell us what to do, but we have to take ownership on the floor.”
It’s manifested, he said, in the Tigers summer play. Key returning players like Dylan Lorio, Takouren Grows, Claudell Harris and Kaden Pierre were among those who made a strong impression at McDonogh, and Jasmine said the Tigers have received a lift from its incoming freshman class as well.
Jasmine says there’s nothing lax about the way the Tigers approach these summer games — they might not count in the standings, but the reps are valuable nonetheless.
Simply put, Jasmine says: if you’re not getting better, someone else is assuredly passing you by.
“This is a sport where so many people are working hard to be good, so you can’t just take off and sit still,” Jasmine said.
Along with the lessons about leadership and closing games his team learned from the Thibodaux game, what may loom just as large is that despite the disappointment, there is a confidence boosting element that comes with knowing one had the state champions-to-be on the brink of elimination. Jasmine said he can see that extra edge in how his players are taking to competition these days.
“It takes time to really believe in yourself and to believe you deserve success,” Jasmine said. “I think the one thing we definitely showed this summer is that our guys don’t second guess it if they should win. They believe that if we execute our gameplan, we’ll get the results.”