Spartans looking to rebuild after losing nucleus of run

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension’s Quinn Coco is the Spartans only returning starter from a team that finished 37-3 and advance the Class 5A semifinals.

The East Ascension basketball program experienced its most success in 20 years a season ago earning a berth in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Top 28 Tournament in Lafayette and enjoying a top ranking throughout the year.

The Spartans loss in the Class 5A semifinals to Lafayette 58-48 last season ending with an overall record of 37-3. The Spartans claimed the District 6-5A championship with a 9-1 mark.

East Ascension loses four seniors who made first-team all-district off that team including MVP Marlon Johnson, a Henderson State signee, who averaged 14 points and seven rebounds per game. Also gone are Chris Thompson (13.8), Brandon Smith (13.3) and Jamal Jackson (11.5).

“We are going to miss those guys,” East Ascension head coach Kenny Almond said. “They were four real good ones. We are going to miss them all. It was a good senior class. Last year, we had five guys. We didn’t have a lot of depth. This year, I feel like we have a little depth and hopefully they will all step in their and start contributing.”

The Spartans lone returning starter is Quinn Coco and Almond said he will be team’s go to guy.

“Right now, he is,” Almond said.  “We hope some of his experience rubs off on the rest of the guys. We are hoping that he can step it up and have an even better year than last year. We count on him a lot.”

Keith Fleming, a transfer from Maurepas and Ferrell Strode will provide a presence down low for the Spartans.

“(Fleming) is only 6-3 but he is a big guy and takes up a lot of space. We have to get a lot out of him. He has a lot of potential and is getting better and working hard. (Strode) gets his hands on a lot of balls and we like that but he has to finish consistently.”

Corey Lane steps into a starting role after coming on as a role player a year ago. The Spartans’ point guard is Gary Weber and twin Kerry Weber is shooting guard. Reserves are Bobby Madere and Tyler Wright.

“We are expecting Corey to step up. He just hasn’t got his shot down yet,” Almond said. “We have been waiting for (Gary and Kerry) to step up. They are both physical guards. They are not super quick but they are quick enough. They can be good players for us.”

“We stress passing. We are not great off the dribble to the bucket. We are not super quick. I think we can be good as a team but individually we are not a bunch of superstars. We want to win every time we play but you play the game, recognize your errors and try to correct them for the next one.”

East Ascension has gotten off to a strong start, defeating St. Michael in the opener before beating Thibodaux and White Castle and losing to St. Amant in the final of Donaldsonville’s Tiger Classic.

The Spartans will compete in the Gold Dome Classic next week. After playing single games against Episcopal and Lee, East Ascension travels to the St. James Tournament.

East Ascension will once again host the Spartan Classic the week between Christmas and New Years. Games against Denham Springs, Lutcher, Broadmoor and Belaire close out the pre-district slate.

“We have played a lot of games already,” Almond said. “We are going to see if we have gotten better. We were the district champions so hopefully we are up to the task of defending it because it is going to be a good league. Everyone is gunning for us.”

“We are not going to lower our goals. We want to get into the playoffs and make a run and I think this team has the capability of doing that. We have to understand that is very difficult to achieve. We won a lot of close games last year because of experience. Hopefully, lack of experience doesn’t cost us this year.”