Right now, the epicenter of basketball in Ascension Parish is East Ascension High School.

Right now, the epicenter of basketball in Ascension Parish is East Ascension High School.

Both the boys and the girl’s teams have stood firm and proven to be the most consistent parish teams as they rolled through their district schedules and look to be dangerous come playoff time.

This was expected from the East Ascension boys after making a memorable run to the state semifinals last season, but it’s safe to say that no one saw this coming from the girls.

The Lady Spartans finished the 2016 regular season strong, allowing them to barely squeeze into the playoff field as the No. 32 seed.

This forced them to face top-seeded Mandeville in the opening round. That equated to a 17-point loss.

It was obvious they carried tremendous potential into this season, but what they have been able to accomplish has far exceeded expectations.

The Lady Spartans lost a 6-point contest to A.J. Ellender in the second game of the season. They haven’t lost since.

They ended the regular season on a 22-game winning steak that saw them take home the District 5-5A title and win their league games by an average margin of 30 points per contest.

As a result, they headed into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the state.

Their head coach Dennis Chandler knows what it takes to win championships. He led McCall—now Madison Parish High—to back-to-back state titles in 1993-94.

He is one of those coaches cut from the same cloth as a guy like Nick Saban when it comes to his coaching philosophy.

Chandler never lets up. Even if his team is up 30 in the fourth quarter, he’s still coaching hard and demanding perfection from his girls.

Earlier in the season, when they beat Scotlandville by 17, you’d think they lost judging by his mood after the game. He was upset with his team’s mental lapses in the first and third quarters and all the turnovers that came as a result.

This approach has worked wonderfully for the Lady Spartans this season.

They haven’t just won; they’ve dominated. Seventeen of their 23 victories have come by double-digits.

Now, they ready themselves for the playoffs, and Chandler said that he is happy with how his team has matured and grown since last year.

They will have to continue to carry an edge with them, because things are different from last year—when they were the upset-minded hunter with nothing to lose.

Now, they’re the hunted. They’re the juggernaut everyone is trying to take down.

Boys head coach Barry Whittington, Jr. is much like Chandler when it comes to how hard he presses his team. It’s no surprise that the Spartans are right back where they were last year, when they were one of the favorites heading into the playoffs.

East Ascension made a tremendous run in 2016. In the quarterfinals, they erased a 13-point second-half deficit to beat Central Lafourche.

After such a terrific year and with the core of that team coming back, many elevated expectations followed them into 2017.

Early in the season, they struggled living up to the hype.

Missing Koye Ruffin and Bilal Frank from last year’s squad, the Spartans had a hard time scoring, and it cost them. In one six-game stretch, they went just 2-4.

But ever since then, they’ve put things together. The key has been their disruptive defense—which has led to easy transition points.

Le’Aaron Cain has continued to play like the best player in the parish, Cameron Wire has stepped up as a force down low and Shedrick Smith and Cole Hatcher have given them a big boost with their outside shooting.

As a result, East Ascension has been able to go 10-1 in their last 11 games and take control of the district.

The last two teams that Whittington has led to the playoffs have both reached the state semifinals—East Ascension last year and Donaldsonville in 2014.

This time, he and his Spartans are looking for more.