Lady Spartans reach semifinals for first time in 25 years

Kyle Riviere
East Ascension will enter the state semifinals on a 10-game winning streak. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Last season, East Ascension entered the playoffs as the second seed in Class 5A and riding a 23-game winning streak.

They had dreams of lifting the state championship trophy when the tournament came to a close. Instead, they had to end the season with a bitter taste in their mouths as they were upset in the second round.

They refused to suffer the same fate two years in a row.

On Thursday night, the Lady Spartans went on the road to face top-seeded Barbe, a team that had only lost four games all year. They weren’t leaving without a win.

East Ascension endured the tough environment and pulled out a victory. The win punched their ticket to the state tournament for the first time in 25 years.

It’s been quite a week for the Lady Spartans.

Before their upset victory over No. 1 Barbe, they first had to get by ninth-seeded Sulphur. East Ascension was hungry for a victory on Monday night, after falling victim to a second-round upset last season as the No. 2 seed.

Against the Tornados, the Lady Spartans were able to lead 17-12 heading into the second quarter. There, their defense dominated.

East Ascension held Sulphur to just four points in the period, allowing them to take a comfortable 27-16 advantage into the half.

In the final two quarters, the Tornados fought hard and avoided the blowout, but they could never get within striking distance. The Lady Spartans were able to walk away with a 63-50 victory.

For the second straight playoff game, junior point guard Tristen Washington led East Ascension in scoring with 19.

Diniaa McZeal was close behind with 16. Kendall Alvarez had 12, and Asia Causey added eight.

This set up the road quarterfinal matchup with Barbe. East Ascension was able to pull off a razor-thin 60-57 victory.

In the win, four Lady Spartans scored in double-figures.

Sedasia LeBlanc led the way with 12, while Sadie Williams was right behind with 11. Both Washington and McZeal had 10.

The win was the 10th straight for East Ascension, but it was their first quarterfinal victory since 1993.

What is even more impressive is that the Lady Spartans have accomplished this without Alynzia Morris, the MVP of both the parish and District 5-5A last season.

Morris broke her wrist early in the year and was forced to sit out for over a month. She came back, but midway into the district schedule, she broke her pinky finger.

She has been unavailable in the playoffs, and she is doubtful for the state tournament.

After their first-round win over Slidell, head coach Dennis Chandler said, “We’ve been missing our best player for pretty much the whole season. We’ve had to keep adjusting for her being gone, and you have to give credit to the kids for being able to do that.”

The Lady Spartans (22-2) are now looking for another upset as they face fourth-seeded Zachary (26-8) in the semifinal game at the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria on Thursday night.

The Lady Broncos are coming off of a 62-58 victory over No. 4 Ouachita Parish in the quarterfinals. They have won eight straight games.