Wildcats come back to capture pivotal victory

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 5, 2016

Varnado took a huge step in its quest to become the District 8-1A champion, defeating Crescent City, 73-54, at home Tuesday on Senior Night.

The Wildcats (18-4 overall) improved its league record to 8-1 while Crescent City (17-7) is 6-2 in district. VHS moved to 9-1 in league play after a win Wednesday.

“This is a huge win,” Varnado coach Brad Oestriecher said. “They were 6-1 in district, we were 7-1. It’s not over, but this puts us in the driver’s seat for the district title and that was the goal before the season.”

Despite the 19-point victory, things got off to an ominous start for the Wildcats, as Crescent City got out of the gates quickly and jumped out to a 14-4 lead halfway through the first quarter and led 23-11 with a minute to go.

Varnado’s D.J. Jefferson, who scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out six assists, hit a layup with 46 seconds left, trimming it to 23-13 through one quarter.

But the game did a complete 180 from that point. Varnado’s defense stepped up after the tough start and did so in a huge way, blocking some shots, altering others and forcing one turnover after another.

“We beared down on the defensive end,” Oestriecher said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We kept them out of transition and Andre Jones protected the paint like I’ve never seen him protect the paint before.”

Jones got the job done defensively, blocking nine shots. He also had 14 rebounds. Jones had a huge third quarter offensively, scoring 11 of his 17 points.

“When he gets his confidence going and he starts playing hard and just playing with confidence, he’s very hard to stop,” Oestriecher said.

Varnado, which allowed 23 points in the first quarter, gave up 11 total points in the next two quarters.

Jefferson’s layup that trimmed the lead to 10 was the beginning of a 14-0 run.

Delrick Abrams, who tied Crescent City’s Byron Joshua with a game-high 23 points, opened the second quarter by splitting from the free-throw line.

Jones pulled the Wildcats closer with a jumper with 7:27 left.

Abrams, who also had six rebounds and four steals, was good on a layup to make it 23-18. Abrams got free and dunked on a fast break, trimming the deficit to three with 5:21 to go.

Jefferson came up with a steal in the backcourt and Crescent City was whistled for an intentional foul at the 4:31 mark. Abrams stepped to the line and hit both shots. The Wildcats got the ball back after the free throws and Errol Varnado, who posted six points, gave the Wildcats their first lead with a 3-pointer, making it 25-23.

Varnado did not trail for the rest of the game.

After a Pioneers’ timeout, Joshua hit a fastbreak layup, tying the game at 25-25.

The Wildcats tallied the next four points on a Jefferson layup and Abrams dunk, but Joshua hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 to go and it was 29-28.

The teams went to the half tied, 30-30.

They were still even at 32-32 at the 6:50 mark when Varnado began taking total control and pretty much ending all doubt of the outcome.

The Wildcats scored 13 unanswered points and outscored Crescent City 24-2 for the remainder of the third quarter.

First, Abrams accepted a pass from Jefferson for two to make it 34-32 with 6:23 remaining. Isaiah Alexander hit a jumper. Jones hit a shot and got fouled. He missed the free throw, but had the lead up to 38-32. A Wildcats’ steal led to an Abrams layup. Jones hit a shot, got fouled and knocked down the free throw, pushing the lead up to 43-32 with 3:31 left. Jones took a pass from Varnado, hit another shot and got fouled. He missed the free throw, but the lead was still at 13.

Joshua stopped the run momentarily with a layup at the 2:27 mark, but Varnado blew the game open by scoring the final 11 points of the period.

The first four points came on offensive rebounds and putbacks by Jones and Abrams. Jefferson hit a field goal with 52 seconds left. Crescent City was called for a technical foul and Jefferson hit both shots from the charity stripe, making it 53-34 with 38.9 seconds on the clock.

Damon Kirsch ended the quarter’s scoring with a 3-pointer. The Wildcats, who trailed Crescent City 23-11 with a minute left in the first quarter, outscored the Pioneers 45-11 over the next 17 minutes.

Varnado’s lead was never in jeopardy in the fourth quarter, as the Wildcats went on for the win.

Nick Darden scored four points for the Wildcats.

Kirsch finished with three and Alexander added two.

Crescent City’s Terrence Smith, Dominic Dandridge and Kaleo Kaohu posted six points each while Cory Johnson logged five, Jonathan Vaughan had four and Luis Aldana and Austen Daliet finished with two each.

Prior to the game, Varnado honored its senior basketball players. The boys’ seniors are Abrams, Alexander, Darden and Jefferson.

Oestriecher gave his senior group a tremendous amount of praise.

“These guys have impacted my life in a way they have never known and they will never know,” Oestriecher said. “These are some great kids. I love them. I just appreciate everything they’ve done for this program. When it comes to it, what I told them is, the year I stepped on this campus, we were fighting for a playoff spot, happy to get to the playoffs, lost in the first round as a 29 seed. Now three years later, with these same kids, we’re fighting for a top four seed and on our way to a district title.”

On Wednesday, Varnado captured a 77-41 win at home over Ridgewood.

The Wildcats led 49-9 at halftime.

Abrams scored 18 points to lead Varnado in scoring.

Armontee Kemp posted 15 and Varnado had 14 in the victory.