BASKETBALL

EA uses strong fourth-quarter surge to top Redemptorist

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
East Ascension's Shedrick Smith ignites a fast break in the Spartans' 59-51 win over Redemptorist. Photo by Dewey Keller.

A big first-half surge by Bilal Frank and tough defense in the fourth quarter allowed East Ascension to come from behind and beat Redemptorist 59-51 to open up action in the Spartan Classic on Friday night.

It was a bit of grit that impressed first-year head coach Barry Whittington after seeing his young team drop a few close games throughout the season.

"We showed some resiliency there. We fought back when we could have hung our heads," Whittington said. "We've been in that situation before, and we were happy to be able to pull out a win."

It was an ugly start for both teams as each squad began the game cold as ice from the field, and turnovers were being committed in the bunches.

With the East Ascension offense stagnant, Frank stepped up and gave his team a big spark.

He scored the Spartans' first six points to give them a 6-3 advantage and at the end of a first quarter East Ascension led 10-7, Frank scored eight of the points.

The second period saw both teams make runs as their offenses began to heat up.

The first run came from Redemptorist as they reeled off a 12-2 spurt on the strength of two straight 3-pointers by Marquis Webb. The charge gave the Wolves their biggest lead at six points.

However, East Ascension quickly answered with a run of their own as they scored six straight to knot things up.

With the game tied, Frank later put an exclamation point on his stellar first half as he converted a big bucket in the final seconds to give the Spartans a 26-24 lead at the break.

Frank scored 17 of his team's 26 first-half points.

"He's been working hard. He had some opportunities to exploit some matchups, and he got out in transition and got some big buckets there. It really sparked our offense in that first half," Whittington said.

In the second half, it was Shedrick Smith that provided the offensive spark for East Ascension.

After Redemptorist fell down four to start the third, they used tenacious defense to tie the game--just to see the Spartans go on a 5-0 run that was highlighted by a breakaway lay-in by Smith.

East Ascension struggled to put the game away.

Redemptorist fell down by as many as six, but they kept fighting back and when Webb hit a runner right before the buzzer, the Wolves took a 42-40 lead into the fourth quarter.

After Redemptorist stretched the advantage out to three points, the Spartans stood tall and fought their way back.

Smith ignited a big run that ended up being the difference in the game.

He nailed a 3-pointer to put East Ascension back ahead at 49-47. He was then the recipient of a perfect outlet pass out in transition, a pass he turned into a breakaway lay-in to stretch the lead to four.

The two big buckets seemed to stun Redemptorist as the Spartans rolled out to a 10-0 run that gave them their biggest lead of the game at seven.

With some free throws and great defense down the stretch, East Ascension was able to pull out the 59-51 victory.

Webb was able to keep the Wolves in the game as he scored a game-high 21.

The big first half helped Frank lead East Ascension in scoring with 20. Smith's big second half helped him finish with 15, and Koye Ruffin chipped in with 10.

As good as the offense looked in the final three quarters, it was the defense that really helped them close out the hard-fought victory.

"During halftime, I talked about how much we needed defense to win this game. Offensively, we weren't clicking today, so we had to do some better things on defense," Whittington said. "As far as rebounding the ball, I think we got better. Also, finding their guys and exploiting matchups defensively, I think we did a much better job of that as well."

The Spartans continued their strong play the next day as they were able to beat Hammond 58-40. It was their third win in their last four games.