Above the rest

Kyle Riviere @kyleR_sports
East Ascension's Javaughn Williams goes in for a lay-in over Dutchtown's Christian Thompson in the Spartans' 55-43 win over the Griffins. Photo by Dewey Keller.

There are still three games remaining, but East Ascension very well may have clinched their second straight District 5-5A title against Dutchtown on Friday night.

After the first-place Griffins slipped up against Catholic a week earlier, they fell into a tie with the Spartans but held the tiebreaker due to a recent 64-52 win over East Ascension. But with the Spartans' 55-43 win on Friday night, they have taken sole possession of the district lead.

"I think we did a better job of handling frustration this time around," East Ascension head coach Kenny Almond said. "In the first game, we got all out of sync early. This game, we got off to a much better start, but we didn't get out of sync when they made their run either, so I think that's what we did better."

You couldn't have asked for much of a better start than the Spartans got off to Friday night. Playing in front of a charged home crowd, they jumped out to a quick 5-0 start with a huge dunk by Jacardo Hawkins and a 3-pointer by Javaughn Williams that both made the arena erupt.

The ignited fan-base never let up, and East Ascension stormed out to a 13-4 lead while Dutchtown seemed a little out-of-sync as they numerously turned the ball over.

The Grifins got a 3-pointer from Patrick Thompson to head into the second trailing 13-7, but the Spartans continued to have their way. Hawkins began to dominate down low. His 14 first-half points helped the Spartans open up their biggest lead of the game at 30-19 at the half.

The game looked to be well on its way to a blowout, but a whole different Dutchtown team came out in the third quarter. They looked much more comfortable, and they began to play tenacious defense that helped them incite a run.

Right out of the gates, they got eight points—four apiece from Leonard Scott and Christian Thompson to get the East Ascension lead all the way down to two.

The Griffin defense continued to force turnovers, and the key was their effort against Hawkins. They held him to just two third-quarter points.

However, they never could get over the hump and take the lead. Shiervan Ursin hit two big buckets for the Spartans to give them a 36-32 advantage heading into the fourth.

Dutchtown made their last push as Patrick Thompson attacked the offensive glass and was good on a put-back to cut the East Ascension lead to one. That's when Williams made the biggest shot of the game.

He snatched up a loose ball on the wing and absolutely nailed a contested 3-pointer that not only gave the Spartans a four-point lead but put the East Ascension faithful into a thunderous frenzy.

"Javaughn's shot in the corner was a big play," Almond said. "That was probably the turning point. After that, we really calmed down, and that helped a lot."

The Spartans certainly rode the momentum of Williams' big shot. Hawkins followed it up with two big lay-ins to swell the lead to eight. From there, East Ascension played great defense, hit their free throws and salted away the 55-43 win.

Patrick Thompson led the way for Dutchtown with 13, and Scott followed with 11.

The Griffins showed the grit needed to win championships. They kept scratching and clawing their way back every time they fell down but in the end, they just ran out of gas.

"We used up so much energy to get back in the game, we just didn't have enough to sustain at the end," Dutchtown head coach Patrick Hill said.

The loss dropped the Griffins to 20-6 overall and 5-2 within the district. They can still win the district crown, but they must win their three remaining games and hope East Ascension loses two of their final three.

They'll play McKinley at home on Friday night.

Once again, Hawkins and Williams paved the way to the Spartan win. Hawkins had a game-high 24 with Williams finishing with 17.

The win gives East Ascension sole possession of the district's top spot but like any head coach, Almond isn't going to let his team get ahead of themselves.

"First place is meaningless if you don't take care of it," Almond said. The Spartans will put that first-place mark on the line Friday night when they play Woodlawn at home.