Surging Spartans make easy work of Griffins
When East Ascension and Dutchtown met two weeks ago, the Spartans had a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. There, they had to fend off a hard charge by the Griffins and barely escaped with a 54-52 road victory.
On Thursday night at home, again they led by double-digits in the second half, but this time, there was no Griffin comeback to endure.
Fifteen first-half points from Shedrick Smith helped East Ascension turn a 2-point lead after one to a 15-point advantage at the break. The Spartans never relented, eventually taking the district opener, 77-53.
"I thought we did a really good job of making shots, and defensively, that's probably one of the better games that we've played,” East Ascension head coach Barry Whittington, Jr. said. “We got that lead at halftime and were able to sustain it and build upon it a little bit. We had a lot of younger guys that came in at the end and knocked down free throws. That's program building. I was really proud of the way we played."
It was an exciting, highly-competitive first quarter as both teams were hot from the field.
After falling down 6-0 to start, Dutchtown’s Nick Caldwell scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to one point. He later hit a 3-pointer that tied the game at 12.
Caldwell had 10 of the Griffins’ 14 first-quarter points as they trailed 16-14 heading into the second.
That’s when East Ascension started to pull away.
The Spartans scored the first four points to open up a six-point lead. Later, two straight 3-pointers by Smith pushed the advantage to 13.
On defense, East Ascension forced numerous Dutchtown turnovers and turned them into easy transition buckets.
To end the half, Hobert Grayson made a put-back at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 39-25 lead at the break.
Smith had 15 in the first 16 minutes for East Ascension.
Meanwhile, after scoring 10 in the first quarter, Caldwell was held to just two points in the second. Prolific scorer Gary Smith was held to no first-half field goals.
"We started making some shots, we forced a couple of turnovers, got some key rebounds and we were able to get out in transition,” Whittington said. “This year, we haven't been so much of a transition team as we have in the past, but in the last few games, we've been getting out, penetrating and kicking the ball out to Shedrick, and he's been knocking down some shots.”
Dutchtown continued to be sloppy with the ball in the third quarter, and East Ascension took full advantage of their errors.
A bucket by Jimel London pushed the lead to 17, and a transition layup by Smith put the advantage to 19.
The Spartans came up with a 16-4 run to begin the second half. It translated to a dominating 27-point lead.
They were up 57-35 heading to the final quarter.
There, Dutchtown head coach Patrick Hill tried to extend the game and put East Ascension on the line every possession, but the Spartans kept hitting free throws. This allowed them to cruise to the 21-point victory.
Four East Ascension players scored in double-figures.
Smith led the way with 21, followed by London with 16. Both Grayson and Kamron Glover had 10. Tre Joseph chipped in with nine.
As for Dutchtown, after scoring 10 in the first quarter, Caldwell was held to just two points for the rest of the game.
Both Jordan Jackson and Troy Thomas scored nine, and Smith was limited to just four points. All of those points came from the line.
The loss was Dutchtown’s fourth in their last six games. It dropped their record to 13-6.
As for East Ascension, they continue to hit their stride. With a huge road win over University on Tuesday and the blowout victory over the Griffins, they have now won five straight and seven of their last eight.
They are 16-6 overall.
"We need to start playing our best basketball right now, and I think we're doing that,” Whittington said. “This team really likes each other. They like playing for each other. We have three seniors and a bunch of sophomores. The seniors are really taking the sophomores under their wing and have really empowered them to be great."