Walker overcomes rally to eliminate Lady Spartans in overtime

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension’s Symone Miller draws a charge on Walker’s Ashley Williams in the second quarter of the Wildcats’ 46-40 overtime Class 5A quarterfinal playoff victory Thursday night.

WALKER - East Ascension scored the final nine points of regulation to force overtime but were held scoreless in overtime as Walker won a Class 5A quarterfinal playoff game 46-40 Thursday night at WHS’ gym.

“We didn’t rebound (in overtime),” East Ascension head coach Dennis Chandler said. “Any time we got the ball we turned it over. When you do that you are not going to score but you have to give Walker their due. They deserve it.

“We had an opportunity at the end of regulation. I didn’t call a time-out because I thought we could get an open shot. This was an enjoyable game to coach and be a part of. They made the free throws when they had to.”

Fourth-seeded Walker (30-6) advances to the Top 28 tournament in Monroe to face No. 1 seed Archbishop Chapelle (36-3) in the semifinals. Fifth-seeded East Ascension ends the season with a 21-5 overall record.

“(East Ascension) really gave us fits and got back into the game,”  Walker head coach John McMillian said. “They did a great job really denying the inbounds pass with their full court press. That got them back in the game and they hit a couple of big shots. I know they are feeling bad but at this point all the teams are good. Unfortunately only four advance but they are a great team.

“We played a great four minutes in overtime. I told them to not get off the bench if they didn’t think they could win. It feels good. These kids have done a phenomenal job. They have far excited my expectations. They earned it. They beat a very good basketball team.”

East Ascension’s Alexis Ruth banked in a lane drive with 13.2 seconds remaining to knot it up 40-40. On the ensuing possession, Brianca Bougere stole the ball but the Spartans couldn’t get a shot off as time expired.

Ashley Williams hit two free throws on Walker’s first possession of overtime before adding the first of two one and ones. Megan Abbott knocked down two free throws with 8.5 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Kaneesha Grant’s pull up in transition sparked the Lady Spartans’ run to end regulation. Ruth knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner off an inbounds pass from Symone Miller before Grant’s baseline jumper following a Walker turnover. Another turnover erupted the gym and set up the dramatic close of regulation.

Ruth led East Ascension 15 points. Miller added 10, while Josie West provided seven, Grant had six and Bougere two.

“Alexis Ruth has a chance to be one of the top players in the state of Louisiana if she works hard,” Chandler said. “That is my opinion. We got a little impatient with our shots. We tried to get them to settle down and work the ball around but we didn’t. I think in the end, Walker just outplayed us.”

Walker was led by Hannah Fohne with 17 points. Mina Romito added 13, while Abbott finished with eight and Williams had six.

Fohne gave Walker a 4-0 lead early before Grant fed West inside to get East Ascension on the board. Grant went coast to coast and fed Miller in the left corner for a 3-pointer to cut it to one point but Rominto’s turnaround jumper made it 10-7 going into the second quarter.

Grant fed Miller for a 3-pointer on the right wing off Katona Blanche’s steal to open the second frame before Miller’s drive and Blanche’s dish to West put East Ascension ahead 15-10. Fohne then scored seven straight points when West went out with her second foul to put Walker ahead with 3:45 left to play in the first half.

“That was really helpful,” McMillian said.  “(West) getting in foul trouble and having to sit out for awhile was huge for us to get that run and open up a lead in the second quarter.”

Blanche fed a cutting Miller before Walker ended the half on a 6-0 run capped by Fohne’s putback with three seconds remaining to take a 26-17 half-time lead.

Ruth’s lane drive and coast to coast lay up opened the second half before Fohne fed Williams inside. Bougere’s drive Romito’s 3-pointer from the right corner but Ruth nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut it to 31-28 going into the fourth quarter after Grant’s roller.

Walker opened the final frame with inside buckets from Fohne, Romito and Abbot before Blanch fed West inside. Abbott’s drive and one put Walker ahead 40-31.

“We are going to try and come back next year a little bit stronger,” Chandler said.

East Ascension’s Josie West shoots over Walker’s Hannah Fohne in the fourth quarter Thursday night.