Gators stun Spartans with road comeback
St. Amant has been fighting through adversity all season.
Earlier this year, starters Jah’leel and Colby Ester were both injured in a car accident that forced them to miss multiple games. Colby’s injuries were more severe. He was forced to miss the bulk of the season after dislocating one shoulder and fracturing the other.
But the two cousins are back. And the Gators needed both of them on Friday night.
On the road, playing in front of a hostile East Ascension crowd, St. Amant fell down 15 points early in the second quarter.
But the Gators weathered the storm. They chipped away until they took a one-point lead into the second half.
In the final 16 minutes, St. Amant made just enough defensive stops, rebounds and shots to earn a thrilling 79-78 victory.
“We never doubted our heart or our toughness,” Gator head coach Travis Uzee said. “We’ve just had a hard time putting it all together consistently. We’ve been all over the place with our season. But I have a great group of kids that aren’t going to give in to anything. I’m proud of them. We got off to a slow start, but we showed who we were after that first quarter. We’re a pretty good basketball team.”
East Ascension came out firing. The Spartans hit four first-quarter 3-pointers to take a 23-11 lead. Two of those 3-pointers came from Jacorey Mitchell.
To begin the second period, Tilicuis Irvin nailed a trey to open up a 15-point advantage. But then the Gators came charging back.
Letavian Crockett hit two three-pointers of his own, and Jah’leel Ester scored on a transition layup that completed a 22-6 St. Amant run and gave the Gators a 33-32 halftime lead.
“We had great effort on the defensive end. We started getting better spacing and held position more,” Uzee said. “East Ascension stopped making 3-pointers. Those guys were on fire to start the game. They finally started missing some, and we started rebounding.”
The beginning of the third quarter saw the teams going back and forth, trading blows.
Trace Forbes hit two 3-pointers to extend the St. Amant lead to five, but then Keith Thomas hit two treys to regain a one-point advantage for East Ascension.
To end the third quarter, Colby Ester converted a bucket and the succeeding free throw to give St. Amant a 58-56 lead heading to the fourth.
Late in the game, with St. Amant up five, Thomas scored four quick points to get East Ascension within one.
The Spartans then took possession of the ball following a Gator turnover. But St. Amant made a big defensive stop, and Colby Ester eventually made three free throws to push the lead to four.
Even after a Troy Dunn 3-pointer, the Gators were able to hold on for the 79-78 win.
In the loss, Thomas led all scorers with 25 points. Dunn scored 14, and both Irvin and Mitchell netted 12.
As for St. Amant, Forbes led all scorers with 21, while Crockett was close behind with 19.
Jah’leel and Colby Ester each scored 16 points for the Gators.
“I wish we would have had them all season. That would have been fun,” Uzee said. “We have a group of seniors and a junior that just don’t give in and don’t quit. We pull for each other and make things fun. It’s a great night for us. Our JV and varsity both won. You can’t ask for a better night.”
The Gator win avenges a 61-55 loss to the Spartans from last month.