East Ascension scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter on a 14-0 run to open a tight game on way to a 54-49 championship game victory over St. Amant Tuesday night in the Coca-Cola Spartan Classic at EAHS.


“It happened so fast,” East Ascension head coach Kenny Almond said. “In the first half we had some two on ones and three on twos and didn’t get anything out of any of it. They stopped holding us after the referees started calling it and that made it easier to run our offense.”


East Ascension scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter on a 14-0 run to open a tight game on way to a 54-49 championship game victory over St. Amant Tuesday night in the Coca-Cola Spartan Classic at EAHS.

“It happened so fast,” East Ascension head coach Kenny Almond said. “In the first half we had some two on ones and three on twos and didn’t get anything out of any of it. They stopped holding us after the referees started calling it and that made it easier to run our offense.”

The hosting Spartans successfully defended their title for the second consecutive season and have now won the holiday tournament three years in a row. It was the third time East Ascension (17-2) and St. Amant (15-2) met this year, all in tournament championships. East Ascension defeated St. Amant, 62-47, in the Tiger Classic, Nov. 22, while the Spartans beat the Gators, 67-61, in the Gold Dome Classic, Dec. 6.

“They have very good players and are well coached,” St. Amant head coach Gary Duhe said. “We played hard but we didn’t execute in the fourth quarter and they did. We didn’t protect the basketball and we didn’t get back.”

Tournament MVP Quinn Coco led East Ascension with 14 points. Keith Fleming, Ferrell Strode and Gary Weber each added 10.

St. Amant was led by Rashaun Claiborne with a game-high 19 points. Bruce Mathison added 14 and Jeff St. Pierre contributed nine.

The Gators led 28-26 after three quarters before the Spartans fourth quarter eruption with 14 combined points from Fleming and Strode.

“We didn’t throw it to them,” Almond said. “Keith played hard tonight and he has been needing this for his confidence. Even more than his offense he did a good job guarding Claiborne when Gary Weber got in a little foul trouble. You can’t guard him and stop him but I thought he slowed him down. He is not near as quick as him but he is so big that he was bothering him with his size.”

Strode’ transition basket put East Ascension ahead 38-28. The run also featured transition buckets from Coco and Fleming and Strode’s tip. Claiborne’s dish to Jacob Gautheir inside ended the run before Strode sandwiched putbacks around the first of three 3-pointers by Jeff St. Pierre, all on the right wing from Mathison, to cut it to 46-41 with 1:29 left to play.

East Ascension nailed 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch for the decisive margin despite eight points from Mathison as both Claiborne and Steve Fulkerson both fouled out.

“They started guarding (Claiborne),” Duhe said. “They knew who to guard and they did a good job. We battled and the game was right there for us to win. We just didn’t finish it at the end.”

Weber and Coco’s pull up jumpers opened the contest before St. Amant used an 8-0 run highlighted by Claiborne’s floater across the lane and fadeaway jumper. Mathison drove the center of the lane to give the Gators a 10-6 lead going into the second quarter.

“Both teams know each other well,” Duhe said. “They may have came out a little flat because they didn’t think we were at full strength. We had to keep the tempo slow and we did a good job of that except for the two minute span in the fourth quarter where it got to quick, they got the lead and we had to play catch up.”

St. Amant was without their leading scorer Brandon Morris for the second consecutive game.
Claiborne scored six straight points to give St. Amant a 16-8 lead in the second quarter after

Coco’s dish to Kenny Varnado in transition opened the stanza. Fleming’s 18-footer and Coco’s pull up jumper preceded Mathison’s drive. Varnado fed Coco in transition to knot it up 20-20 at half-time after jumpers from Coco, Kerry Weber and Mathison and Fleming’s put back.

Claiborne scored all of St. Amant’s eight points in the third quarter and East Ascension managed just six as a team.

“We had to switch some people around (to contain Claiborne),” Almond said. “Kenny started leaving his guy (to double team).”