Late Spartan run too much for Gators

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Le'Aaron Cain poured in a game-high 23 for the Spartans in their 60-45 victory over St. Amant. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

Facing a hostile road crowd, St. Amant fought their way back from a 12-point deficit to get within 2 points of archrival East Ascension. Behind stingy defense and a run of 14 straight points by Le'Aaron Cain, the Spartans made sure they never got any closer.

Cain and East Ascension unleashed a 26-13 run to end the game--allowing them to cruise past the Gators, 60-45, for their second district victory.

"Against a good team like this, they're not going to make a ton of mistakes; we can't make any," St. Amant head coach Travis Uzee said. "I'm proud of the way we played for about three and a half quarters. It's just that half of a quarter that we let get away from us."

The Gators found themselves in a deep hole right from the start as they began the game with three straight turnovers.

The Spartans were not able to take advantage initially due to some sloppy play of their own, but their offense finally got going behind point guard Jimel London.

London made a superb spin move in the paint that resulted in a layup. He followed it up with two straight transition baskets. His personal 7-0 run gave East Ascension a 16-4 lead after one.

However, the Spartans were never able to pull away in the first half. In the second quarter, they went cold, and St. Amant stood firm every time it looked like they were primed for a big run.

Though the Gator offense was struggling mightily, they only trailed, 27-16, at the break.

After Shedrick Smith drilled a 3-pointer in the third to push the East Ascension lead to 12, St. Amant's offense finally started to make plays.

KJ Franklin reeled off 5 straight points to cut the deficit to 7. Later, Franklin knocked down a 3-pointer to complete a 10-2 run that got St. Amant within 2.

With the Gators nipping at their heels for the first time in the game, Cain took over for the Spartans. He scored 7 straight for his team to push the lead to 43-35 heading into the fourth.

In the final period, he kept rolling. He scored 7 more to complete a stretch of 14 straight points for the Spartans. That run allowed East Ascension to go back up by 12.

"That was big. He was able to get to the line, get some run-outs and some layups. Our offense was so anemic in the second quarter," Spartan head coach Barry Whittington, Jr. said.

With the double-digit advantage, East Ascension was able to clinch the 60-45 victory.

Cain led all scorers with 23 points. London had 12 points for the Spartans, and Smith chipped in with 7.

Whittington said that he was happiest with how his team picked up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter.

"They made an adjustment that we didn't adjust to, and they were able to get some wide-open looks. When they're wide open, they're going to knock down their shots," Whittington said. "They have a lot of guys that can shoot. We picked up man-to-man, and the guys locked in and didn't give them so many looks."

St. Amant was led by a former Spartan in Kameron Kelson. He scored 15 against his old team, while Franklin was close behind with 14. Carter Templet added 7.

It was the third straight loss for the Gators as they fell to 0-2 in district play.

"We're going to work hard, we're going to try to correct the mistakes that we made and we're going to get ready to play a good team," Uzee said. "We played three really good teams in a row. It was a tough stretch for us, but we feel like we have the players and the heart to win some games. We just have to go back to the drawing board."

The victory completed a tremendous week for the Spartans. They began district play with a road win over reigning district champion Catholic on Tuesday, and finished it off with the road victory over the Gators on Friday.

"You always want to start district off with as many wins as you can," Whittington said. "At this time last year, we were 0-2. This time around, we're 2-0, and we're right where we need to be. We still have some things to correct."

Though St. Amant dropped to 14-11, the victory pushed East Ascension to 21-4.