Gator basketball topples Spartans for first time in three years

Kyle Riviere
St. Amant's Justin Gibson led all scorers with 18 points in the Gators' victory over East Ascension. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

St. Amant head coach Travis Uzee has channeled his inner Rodney Dangerfield all season, saying that his team doesn't get any respect.

Well, they went out and earned that respect on Friday night.

Facing a hostile crowd and a 10-point first-half deficit, the Gators weathered the storm against archrival East Ascension and outscored them 19-6 in the fourth quarter to ruin their senior night celebration.

The victory was the team's first against the Spartans since Jan. 30, 2015. It snapped a six-game losing streak.

"[East Ascension] is really good. They're tough on this court," Uzee said. "We've been playing all season with a lack of respect, but we play hard. That's all we needed to do, and when it got to the fourth quarter, it was there for the taking. Our kids wanted it, and we went and got it. I couldn't be more proud of our seniors."

Though, early on, it looked like the Gators were about to get run out of the gym.

Led by two Hobert Grayson 3-pointers, East Ascension stormed out to a 12-2 lead right out of the gates.

But St. Amant didn't get rattled. A trey by K.J. Franklin sparked a 9-2 run by the Gators to trim the deficit to 14-11 heading to the second quarter.

After a Shedrick Smith 3-pointer pushed the East Ascension advantage to 21-14, Justin Gibson came alive for St. Amant inside.

Gibson scored eight of the Gators' next nine points to get his team within a bucket.

To end the half, a great pass made its way downcourt to Jahnoi Daley, who converted a layup at the buzzer.

The 11-4 St. Amant spurt tied the game, 25-25, at the break.

The third quarter was dominated by defense.

Franklin came up with a steal and finished it off with a transition layup to tie the game at 32.

However, Trey Joseph responded with a drive and layup of his own in the waning seconds to give the Spartans a 34-32 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

In the final eight minutes, it was all St. Amant.

After the two teams traded a couple of buckets, Gibson scored down low to give the Gators a two-point lead.

A Kenyon Hebert put-back was then followed with a St. Amant steal and two free throws by Franklin to swell the lead to six.

East Ascension could never dig themselves out of the hole. They continued to turn the ball over offensively, and the Gators made them pay.

A steal turned into a big transition dunk by Javin Augillard to open a 10-point St. Amant lead. From there, they coasted to a 51-40 victory.

"We knew it was going to be tough early because it was their senior night, and they're a really good team," Uzee said. "We knew if we could just settle in and get it to the way we wanted to play, we could make it a half-court game and we'd have a better chance. We tied it at the half, and we went into the second half with the mindset that we wanted to go win it, and our kids wanted it. They wanted it bad."

The Gator defense held East Ascension's senior trio of Smith, Jimel London and Kamron Glover to 12 combined points.

"We made defensive stops. We were really tough in that fourth quarter," Uzee said. "When you hold those guys to 40, you think that's good for a half. We did it for a whole game. That's how you get in the win column."

Grayson was the leader for the Spartans with 15.

Augillard and Daley each had eight for St. Amant, while Franklin added 12. Gibson was their leading scorer with 18.

"Justin Gibson has been playing like that all district. If they want to decide who is the district MVP based on these last five games, he should be it," Uzee said. "He's averaging a double-double, he plays the whole game and he busts his butt every play. He deserves it."

With the win, St. Amant shared the regular season District 5-5A title with Catholic. The Gators beat the Bears, 72-66, when they played last month.

The two teams will be the top two seeds in the district tournament, which will begin on Thursday. The champion will be crowned on Saturday.