Spartans outlast Griffins for third straight win

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
East Ascension's Koye Ruffin gets past Dutchtown's Christian Chustz in the Spartans' 48-45 win. Photos by DKMoon Photography.

The young East Ascension Spartans have been letting leads slip away from them all season and on Friday night, it looked like they were ready to suffer the same fate on the road against Dutchtown.

But great defense and timely free throws allowed them to hang on and collect a third straight victory as they gutted it out 48-45.

"I think things started working for us when we beat McKinley and Woodlawn. When you start winning, it becomes a habit," Spartan head coach Barry Whittington Jr. said. "We're fortunate a couple of balls went our way. I'm glad we were able to get a good road win versus a rival, but we have a lot of stuff we can clean up."

Some of the things that haunted East Ascension throughout the game were costly turnovers, missed layups and lackluster free-throw shooting. Luckily, they made most of their free throws late in the contest.

"We turned it over against their 2-3 zone. People weren't coming back to the basketball, and passes were getting batted away," Whittington said. "Free throws, that's just a mentality. We shot 44.8 percent from the free-throw line, and we shot 38.6 percent from the field. So, that tells you how hard we had to work just to win the game."

The Spartans got off to a great start as they surged to a 17-11 first-quarter lead. After the proficient opening period, their offensive woes reared their ugly heads.

The plethora of turnovers allowed Dutchtown to hang around.

The Griffins weren't much better though. They couldn't buy a basket, and both teams were horrid from the free-throw line.

Dutchtown was able to go on a 7-2 run to trim the deficit to one, and they ended up trailing 23-20 at the half.

The Griffins came alive in the third quarter. They started the second half with a 7-0 run that allowed them to take the lead.

The Spartans battled back and regained a three-point advantage, but a trey by Christian Chustz--his third of the game--tied the contest at 32.

The Griffins then toke a two-point lead into the fourth quarter as Cameron Burke made a wide-open lay-in at the buzzer.

It looked like the young Spartan squad was primed to let another late lead slip away, but things were different this time around.

East Ascension amped up their defense, and they got a spark offensively from Shedrick Smith.

Smith opened the fourth quarter with two straight buckets to tie the game.

Bilal Frank them converted a big lay-in down low, and Justine Harris came through with a put-back to give the Spartans a four-point lead.

Burke cashed in on an and-one opportunity to trim the lead down to one, but Smith hit two clutch free throws to put the advantage back to three.

That three-point lead held until the final seconds of the game. Dutchtown's Ross Hill got a good look from the wing. He fired up a 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime, but it never had a chance.

The Spartans were able to claim the 48-45 win--their third straight.

Kameron Kelson led the way for East Ascension with 12 while Frank added 10. Smith had eight for the game, but it was his six in the fourth quarter that really gave the Spartans a boost.

"He was a lot more patient and took some big shots. Earlier in the game and in the last few games, he didn't take the best shots available," Whittington said. "So, today I wanted us to get great shots and not just good shots, and he did a good job of that."

The Griffins were led by Burke as he scored a game-high 16. Chustz and Josh Crockett each had nine.

The loss was the fifth straight for Dutchtown.

As for the Spartans, it helped improve their record to 11-18. Coach Whittington thinks their winning streak is all about defense.

"We've played a lot better on defense. We're finally being able to play the type of defense I like to play with multiple systems," Whittington said. "We've been able to come up with some big stops, and rebounding has been good for us, and that's been a big contributor to us winning."