Spartans say the "R-word"

Kyle Riviere @kyleR_sports
East Ascension's Jeremy McInnis takes a jumper in the Spartans' championship-clinching 44-41 win over Woodlawn. McInnis led the way with 17. Photo by Dewey Keller.

It was a word head coach Kenny Almond forbade his team from saying all year but after Friday night's 44-41 win over Woodlawn, the Spartans can finally say it.

"We picked up on Nick Saban's deal about using the 'R-word,' and we told them that you can't say 'repeat' until you do it," Almond said. "They did it, and I'm really proud of this team. They've been through a lot."

Fueled by a total team effort, fourth-ranked East Ascension collected an ugly yet crucial win over the Panthers to wrap up their second straight District 5-5A title.

What made it all the more impressive was how they did it. You won't see the Spartans win many games with Jacardo Hawkins and Javaughn Williams combining for 18 points, but that's exactly how East Ascension won their right to say "repeat" Friday night.

The Spartans got off to a hot start early as point guard Chad Hill raced out in front of an East Ascension fast-break and was good on a lay-in that gave the Spartans an early 11-2 lead.

However, Woodlawn's suffocating defense on Hawkins down low and their monotonous offense on the other end, helped them slow the game down and hang around.

The Spartans took an 11-4 advantage into the second, and that's when the Panthers began to chip away at the lead.

They continued to double and triple-team Hawkins—forcing him into turnovers and eventually, he was forced to take a seat on the bench with his second foul.

Woodlawn took advantage. With Hawkins out of the game with only four points, Chris Williams heated up with a quick nine to cut the East Ascension lead to 19-15 at the half.

But right when the Panthers looked primed for a run, the Spartans showed exactly why they were the reigning district champs.

Hawkins got back on the floor and started things off with a lay-in. On the other end, he made a huge block and after East Ascension got out in transition, he was rewarded with a dish that set up another lay-up. It gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the game at 11.

And even when Hawkins was forced to sit down again with his fourth foul, Jeremy McInnis stepped up and gave East Ascension a huge boost. He helped the Spartans take a 34-22 lead into the fourth.

Woodlawn did everything they could to turn things around with time running low. They forced Hawkins to foul out with four minutes left, and they tightened up their defense. However, they could never generate enough offense to catch up.

As the final minute ticked away, they were forced to start fouling East Ascension, and the Spartans were good on their free throws. Even with Derek Graves hitting three late 3-pointers, East Ascension held on for the 44-41 win.

Chris Williams led the way for Woodlawn with his 14 while he and the Panthers held Hawkins to just 12, and Javaughn Williams was limited to just six points.

With East Ascension's two top scorers being held in check, they needed a boost, and they got one from McInnis. He led the Spartans with a game-high 17.

"They did a good job on Javaughn and Jacardo, and our other guys came through," Almond said. "I thought we really did a good job on defense and held them down a little bit with the press, and Jeremy (McInnis) was big. At the start of the third quarter, we got him inside on some drives, and that was a good adjustment for us."

The win put East Ascension at 26-3 overall and clinched their second straight district championship. The victory also gave them an 18-1 record within the district the past two years. The only loss was a road defeat to Dutchtown earlier this season.

"This is a tough league to win games in, and we all play each other pretty darn good, so I hope that can help us once we get to the playoffs," Almond said.