Spartans hold off surging Tigers
Head coach Barry Whittington, Jr. is used to winning big games at Donaldsonville High School. He’s just used to winning them with the Tigers.
Last week, things were a little different. He came in leading his 13-2 East Ascension Spartans, and with timely defense and tremendous play by point guard Jimel London, Whittington was able to celebrate victory once again.
“It was weird coming back because I grew up as a coach here, so it was weird being on the opposite end,” Whittington said. “I got a little emotional during the game, and I think my players fed off of that, but at the end of the day, we were able to make some plays, settle down and play our brand of basketball.”
Donaldsonville came into the contest winners of three straight games and with two-sport star Stephen Sullivan back in the lineup. From the very start, the Tiger crowd was raucous, and their team fed off of the emotions.
Jacoby Simon set the tone early for Donaldsonville as he scored the team’s first 6 points to give them a quick 6-5 lead.
However, East Ascension’s Koye Ruffin had an answer. His 3-pointer sparked a 10-2 Spartan run that gave them a 15-8 advantage.
The spurt stretched out to 15-2 and yielded a 20-9 first-quarter lead after London came through with a steal and fed the ball to Ruffin for a layup.
It appeared East Ascension was ready to blow Donaldsonville off of the court, but Sullivan stepped up when they were desperate for a play. He converted on an and-one opportunity to cut the lead to 8.
It got the crowd back in the game, and the Tigers’ tenacious defense started to create turnovers. It all helped Donaldsonville put together a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 2.
But once again, Ruffin was there to respond. He drilled a 3-poiter that eventually pushed the lead back to 7.
And as time ran low in the first half, Shedrick Smith hit a trey to give East Ascension a 35-29 advantage at the break.
Donaldsonville made a hard charge at the start of the third quarter. A LaDarius Jackson 3-pointer contributed to a 7-2 run that allowed them to trim the deficit to 1.
But like they had all night, East Ascension answered the run and silenced the crowd. Justin Harris made a layup to jump the Spartan lead back to 7.
Simon hit a jumper at the top of the key to get Donaldsonville within 3, but Le’Aaron Cain made a layup in traffic to jump the advantage back to 7.
With time running low in the quarter, London made a teardrop to give the Spartans a 49-40 advantage heading into the fourth.
In the final period, London took over.
He started things off with two free throws to jump the lead to 9. On the other end, he drew a charge and hit two more tree throws to put the lead at 11.
From there, the Spartans were able to take control with solid defense. Not being able to buy a late basket certainly didn’t help the Tigers.
“They weren’t making their outside shots, so we sort of gambled a little bit on defense hoping they wouldn’t make any, and fortunately for us, they didn’t,” Whittington said.
The Spartans closed out the 63-46 win. It was their 12th victory in 13 games.
The loss put an end to Donaldsonville’s three-game winning streak and dropped their overall record to 5-5.
Simon led the way for the Tigers with a game-high 21 points. Ronald Whittington had 9, and Sullivan was limited to 7.
Three players scored in double-figures for East Ascension. Ruffin had a team-high 16, and London was right behind with 15. Despite missing much of the first half because of a gash he sustained over his eye, Cain poured in 11.
Harris came just short of double-figures as he finished with 9.
Coach Whittington had high praise for his point guard after the victory.
“I think having a point guard like Jimel London helped set the tone for everybody else. He didn’t panic; he didn’t get down on himself,” Whittington said. “He still tried to attack the entire game, and that really paid dividends for us because everybody else fed off of his energy.”
East Ascension will be back in action on Jan. 5, when they visit Terrebonne. Donaldsonville will return to the court on Dec. 28, when they visit Plaquemine.