BASKETBALL

EA earns two double-digit wins at Gold Dome Classic

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com

In the consolation bracket of the Ralph Sellers Gold Dome Classic, East Ascension used a 14-0 third-quarter surge to beat Destrehan 62-45. It was a win they desperately needed.

The young Spartan squad had seen their confidence put through the ringer before entering the tournament.

Prior to Thanksgiving, East Ascension played in a tournament at Denham Springs and suffered two losses by 11 combined points.

And in the opening round of the Gold Dome Classic, they led Dunham by 10 heading into the fourth quarter, just to lose a gut-wrencher, 59-58.

But on Friday night, the Spartans put aside the late-game woes and closed out the Wildcats with tenacious defense that they turned into deadly transition offense.

"It was three consecutive losses that were pretty tough. In the Denham game, we were up by 10. In the Lutcher game, we were up. We have to learn a way to close games out," first-year Spartan head coach Barry Whittington said. "I was proud with the way we were able to close the game out today, and it's good to see the stuff we've been coaching up is working in the game."

To start the game, East Ascension hit two 3-pointers and unleashed great ball movement, but they only led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter due to turnovers and Destrehan thwarting the press and finding open shooters.

The turnovers continued in the second quarter as East Ascension was able to build a five-point advantage. However, the Wildcats cut the deficit to 27-26 at the half with a 3-pointer by Devin Edwards.

To begin the third quarter, the Spartans flexed their muscles.

They harassed Destrehan with their full-court pressure and turned most of their turnovers into easy transition buckets.

Keimon McGuffy made two quick baskets--including a breakaway lay-in following a steal.

Sophomore Koye Ruffin exploded for 12 third-quarter points to help East Ascension overwhelm the Wildcats with a 14-0 run. It all helped the Spartans carry a 50-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

"In that third quarter, we did a really good job of playing without fouling and finishing plays," Whittington said. "We got turnovers in the first half, but we didn't finish them. In the second half, we did a much better job of converting our defense into offense."

Lionel Maxon nailed a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter; it cut the East Ascension lead to 10, but that's as close as Destrehan would get.

The Spartans were able to successfully play keep-away for much of the quarter, and they were able to sink shots when they need them.

In the end, East Ascension put away the impressive 62-45 victory. The next day, the Spartans followed it up with an easy 58-44 win over Mentorship Academy to even their record at 3-3.

Though the two wins were nice, Coach Whittington would like to see his team develop a more aggressive mindset moving forward.

"They've been playing passive. What I mean by that is, we're a bunch of nice guys on the court right now," Whittington said. "We don't have any assassins out there that are looking to put the team away. When we have a team on its heels, we have to close the game out and play with confidence."

East Ascension is still without returning first-team all-district player Deandre Jones. Jones hurt his knee recently and is expected to miss significant time.

However, some of the Spartans' youngsters have certainly stepped up in his absence. East Ascension had three players score in double-figures in the win against Destrehan.

Ruffin led the way with 15, and McGuffy was not far off with 14 points of his own. Bilal Frank chipped in with 11.