EA ends season with heart-breaking loss to Catholic

Kyle Riviere
The heart-breaking Spartan loss came in senior Josh Andrews' final game at East Ascension. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

Sometimes a run can eat your opponent alive and at other times, a run can eat you.

To the shocked dismay of the loud East Ascension faithful last Thursday night, the latter came into fruition.

Coming into their regular-season finale, the Spartans were riding high on the strength of a four-game winning streak and looking to end the season with a huge win over Catholic--the district's top team.

After using a 15-2 run to take a nine-point lead over the Bears with just over three minutes remaining, Catholic answered with a 15-2 run of their own.

The game looked like it was headed to overtime, but the Bears inbounded the ball with just 1.3 seconds remaining, and Sam Cancienne drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Catholic the 43-40 victory.

While the Catholic players formed a dogpile in the middle of the court, all the Spartans and their faithful could do was stand motionless in complete silence.

"It was the turnovers and missed free throws," a frustrated head coach Barry Whittington Jr. said. "It was the story of our season. We can't finish games."

Before the game reached classic status in the second half, both teams struggled right out of the gates.

After Catholic hit three first-quarter 3-pointers, they took a 12-7 advantage into the second quarter.

That's when the game got ugly. Each team struggled from the field and added sloppy ball-handling to the mix. In all, the two teams only combined for 12 total points in the quarter.

With East Ascension down 16-14 to start the second half, the offense finally picked up as the teams went back and forth.

Jimel London was able to sink free throws to cut the deficit to one, but Ethan Treigle hit a trey on the other end to give Catholic a four-point lead.

Down four, Koye Ruffin sank a 3-pointer for the Spartans, and Bilal Frank made a lay-in and one to give East Ascension their first lead of the game.

Treigle made two free throws at the end of the quarter to give the Bears a 29-28 advantage heading into the fourth.

Another 3-pointer by Ruffin to start the quarter ignited a 15-2 run by East Ascension.

After two straight buckets by Frank, a livid head coach Mark Cascio got the Bears slapped with a technical foul. Ruffin hit both free throws, and Kameron Kelson followed it with a lay-in.

It all helped the Spartans build a nine-point lead with just over three minutes remaining. It looked like East Ascension was well on their way to their fifth straight win, but that's when Bear star Toliver Freeman took over.

He quickly went to the basket in two straight trips and drew fouls--allowing him to hit four straight free throws to cut the deficit to five.

Then, Grant Sceroler nailed a 3-pointer from the wing to cut the lead to two.

After two lay-ins by Freeman and two missed free throws by London, Catholic led by one.

With the clock winding down, Ruffin got the ball and drove hard to the basket. He was fouled with just three seconds remaining. He hit the first free throw to tie the game at 40, but he missed the second.

The Bears had one final chance with 1.3 seconds remaining. That's when Cancienne drilled the gut-wrenching 3-pointer to win the game, 43-40.

Freeman led the Bears with a game-high 20. Eight of those points came in the fourth quarter. Treigle chipped in with 10.

Ruffin led the Spartans with 12 points while Frank added nine.

After putting things together and winning four straight games, it was a devastating way for East Ascension to end the season.

Though they finished the season at 13-17, the Spartans can hang their hats on the fact that they only graduate one starter in Josh Andrews.

They will bring back a young and talented roster. However, Coach Whittington knows that won't amount to much if they don't play better than they did this season.

"My optimism hinges on the amount of effort we put in from now until next season. I'm not really an optimistic person; I'm a realistic person," Whittington said. "Realistically, if we work the way we worked this week, we're not going to win many games. If we don't get better, work harder and play harder every single day, we won't win."