All of that hard work paid off for East Ascension at the Rapides Coliseum as they pulled off a 37-32 victory over seventh-seeded Natchitoches Central to capture the program's first ever state championship.

On Saturday night, East Ascension forward Sadie Williams said, "Nobody works as hard as us."

The Lady Spartans now have the hardware to prove it.

All of that hard work paid off for East Ascension at the Rapides Coliseum as they pulled off a 37-32 victory over seventh-seeded Natchitoches Central to capture the program's first ever state championship.

The game wasn't pretty. The Lady Spartans shot just 30 percent from the field, and they committed 19 turnovers, but thanks to their stifling defense, the result was beautiful.

"I don't do a lot of scouting. I don't watch a lot of film. My priority is us doing what we do, and what we do is defend," East Ascension head coach Dennis Chandler said. "We've done that since I've been here. Good team, bad team, we're gonna play defense. We might not shoot that well, but we are gonna defend."

The Lady Spartans did it the hard way in 2018.

Despite only losing two games during the regular season, they entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. As a result, they had to beat top-seeded Barbe and fifth-seeded Zachary to reach the championship game. They won both games by double-digits.

Against Natchitoches Central, East Ascension found themselves down 10-9 after one. The prolific scoring of Jolie Williams was giving them fits. She had all 10 of the Lady Chiefs' points.

However, for the rest of the game, the Lady Spartans limited her to just seven.

In the first 16 minutes, East Ascension couldn't buy a basket, and they were turning the ball over in bunches. Still, they only trailed by one at halftime.

Things finally clicked for the Lady Spartans at the start of the third quarter.

Diniaa McZeal came up with back-to-back baskets, and Tristen Washington launched a pass downcourt to a wide-open Aja Causey for a layup.

Causey later scored on another transition bucket to complete a 12-0 East Ascension run to start the second half. It gave them the biggest lead of the game at 27-18.

Offense was meager to start the fourth quarter.

The score stayed at 29-22 for five minutes, until Tristen Washington drove into the paint and converted a layup to extend the Lady Spartan lead back to nine.

Natchitoches Central made one final push.

Jolie Williams nailed a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four, but she fouled out shortly afterward.

Down the stretch, Tristen Washington hit four big free throws that were able to ice the game away for East Ascension.

Tristen Washington led all Lady Spartan scorers with 14. She was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.

Causey scored six, and McZeal added five.

East Ascension forced 19 turnovers and held the Lady Chiefs to just 24-percent shooting.

"We depend on our conditioning a lot," Chandler said. "When I look at the playoff stats, most teams don't shoot threes well against us; they don't shoot free throws well against us. All we have to do is make them miss, rebound and get back on defense."

Bringing home a state championship was the outcome many expected for the Lady Spartans last season, when they entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, but they were upset in the second round.

With the new year came a new Lady Spartan squad.

"It was a different team, a different mindset," Chandler said. "When that game was over, I went back and looked at some things that we did, and the team changed. This year's team, if you look at the team that finished the game, they were guards. Most of the kids that are on my team, they can handle the ball, they can pass--the whole nine yards. We preach balance."

After 21 years at East Ascension, Chandler was able to celebrate on the court as his team took home the state title, but he was just as happy with what he saw off of the court on Saturday night.

"When I got here in 1997, they said they'd like to see that day, and the day is here now," Chandler said. "I feel very proud of that. The thing I feel real good about is that I was able to look into the stands and see a lot of my former players. They were very supportive, and that means a whole lot to me, because when I coach, I don't throw my kids away. They're always welcomed to the gym."

The Lady Spartans finished the season with an overall record of 24-2. The win over Natchitoches Central was their 12th consecutive victory.