Hot-shooting EA too much for Gators

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Cole Hatcher nails one of his three 3-pointers in East Ascension's blowout victory over St. Amant. Photo by Tammy Gaudin.

There were many times in East Ascension's 2016 run to the state semifinals when Le'Aaron Cain created a spark when his team needed it the most.

He was at it again last Friday night.

Playing at home against archrival St. Amant, the Spartans found themselves down 4 and being outplayed by the Gators for much of the first half. That's when Cain took over.

His 12-point scoring barrage ignited a 19-4 East Ascension run that took the game from a barnburner to a blowout before St. Amant knew what hit them. In the end, the Spartans cruised, 78-50.

"Any time East Ascension and St. Amant play, throw the records out of the window," Spartan head coach Barry Whittington, Jr. said. "Both teams are going to be prepared. Both teams are not going to want to lose to each other. So, often, in the first half, it's emotion-filled, and after that, both teams start to settle in, and it turns into who executes the most and makes the most stops."

The emotions favored St. Amant early.

To end the first quarter, the Gators forced three straight East Ascension turnovers and cashed in all three for easy layups--two coming for Travis Cole. This 6-point flurry gave them a 13-7 lead heading to the second.

Cole Hatcher cut the deficit in half by hitting a 3-pointer, and on the defensive end, he came up with two big blocks.

This defensive toughness helped the Spartans hang around, and Cameron Wire eventually tied the game with a free throw.

Then, right before the half, Cain hit a 3-pointer to give East Ascension a 29-26 halftime advantage.

The second half belonged to Cain and the Spartans.

He began the third with two treys to stretch the lead to 9.

On defense, he came up with a steal and pulled up for a transition 3-pointer, and on the Spartans' next offensive possession, he drilled another to give them a 14-point advantage.

Just when St. Amant began to chip away at the lead, Cain made a tremendous dish to Hatcher at the wing. Hatcher drilled a trey at the buzzer to give East Ascension a 55-41 advantage heading to the fourth.

To start the final period, Jimel London completed an and-one play to push the lead to 17. From there, the Spartans rolled to the 78-50 victory.

"What really happened is that we played better defense, and we were able to get out in transition and get some good looks. That really ignited us," Whittington said. "In the last few games, the third quarter has been really important for us. We've turned up the defense and got some good shots."

St. Amant head coach Travis Uzee said that his team got too impatient.

"In the second half, we got out of the stuff we did in the first half, and we can't do that," Uzee said. "We were in a great position at halftime and even in the third quarter, and then we totally forgot how we got to that position. Our bad offense caused a lot of their transition offense."

Cain led much of the Spartans' transition offense. He finished with a game-high 31.

Also for East Ascension, both London and Wire had 11 and Hatcher scored 10.

Cole led the way for St. Amant with 15. Kameron Kelson scored 13, while Jahnoi Daley netted 9 and Jimmie Pittman scored 8.

The victory was the third straight for East Ascension. Most importantly, it put them at 2-0 in district play.

"Cole has been good stepping in for Shedrick (Smith)--who's been out with an injury. We've been playing better as a team," Whittington said. "We can stand to get Cameron Wire the ball a little more. That would open up things more for the offense. There are some other things we can tweak to get better, but I think we're in a good position right now."

Conversely, with the loss, St. Amant dropped into an 0-2 hole in district play, but Coach Uzee is still confident his team will respond.

"Hopefully, we can bounce back and have a good practice on Sunday. We're going to watch some film and try to correct some things that we need to do better," Uzee said. "We're a veteran team, and we shouldn't make those kinds of mistakes at this point in the season. We have a resilient group of kids, and we'll step up to the challenge. I really believe in these guys."