GULFPORT Southeastern Louisiana men’s basketball coach Jay Ladner made a triumphant return Thursday to Bert Jenkins Gymnasium on the Gulfport High campus.
Ladner’s SLU Lions defeated Jackson State 57-51 in a men’s college exhibition game that was held to raise money for hurricane help on the Gulf Coast.
Ladner, opening his fourth season at SLU in Hammond, coached St. Stanislaus High School in Bay St. Louis for 20 years and coached many a game on the floor at “The Bert.’’
“It looked like an exhibition game,’’ Ladner said. “I thought both teams defensively are farther ahead than they are offensively. Both teams had a few key players out. They lost a player during the game and we lost a player during the game. That hurt both teams’ execution.
“Coach (Wayne) Brent is known for his defense. We had some time and score situations at the end where the game got tight and we had to manage the ball, and I thought we did a decent job of that.’’
The Lions jumped to a 7-0 lead and only trailed once – at 25-24 – when Julian Daughtry hit a trey with 3:14 left before halftime. But SLU answered and led 32-27 at halftime.
Jackson State tied the game at 33 early in the second half but SLU responded to every run.
Chace Franklin, who scored 14 points for JSU, cut the Lions lead to 54-51 with 1:14 left. But Keith Charleston came up big in the final seconds, hitting 3 of 4 free throw attempts for the win.
Moses Greenwood paced SLU with 14 points and 9 rebounds. James Currington had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Jeremiah Jefferson took game-high honors for the JSU Tigers with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
“Keith Charleston is an experienced player and is not rattled in those type situations,’’ Ladner said. “He stepped up and hit some big free throws.
“Gulfport is a special place for basketball with all those state championships. The people here run a first-place program. I was pleasantly surprised with the late notice of the game the type of crowd we had. I think if it is an annual event scheduled far enough ahead of time, I think it has some potential.’’
SLU is picked No. 3 preseason in the Southland Conference. Likewise, Jackson State is a No. 3 pick preseason in the SWAC. SLU has one more exhibition game with William Carey on Nov. 7 before its home season opener on Nov. 10 against Centenary.