DUTCHTOWN — It wasn’t a district game, but but there was still plenty of intensity Friday night when East Ascension took on parish rival Dutchtown.
East Ascension built a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, but had to hold off a furious Dutchtown rally before holding on for a 54-52 win.
Jimel London paced the Spartans with 16 points, and Shedrick Smith scored 13. Dutchtown’s Gary Smith led all scorers with 17.
The two schools open their District 5-5A schedule in two weeks at East Ascension. With the district featuring only one round of play this year, the teams, who are ranked in the top 13 of the LHSAA power rankings, didn’t want to miss a chance to play at Dutchtown.
They used opportunity to put on a show.
East Ascension (12-6) led 44-31 with 4:27 left to play, but while the Spartans tried to take the air out of the ball, the Griffins rallied.
Dutchtown (12-5) went on a 15-6 run and trailed 48-46 after Gary Smith made the first of two free throws at the 1:52 mark. Smith missed the second, but Nicholas Caldwell grabbed the rebound. His point-blank putback hit the back iron and bounced out.
EA surged back and led 52-46 before the Griffins scored again. Ryan Bromfield and Gary Smith each hit 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds for Dutchtown, but Shedrick Smith’s two free throws kept the game out of reach.
“Their best players (Smith and Caldwell) started having an impact on the game, and that was our number one focus — to stop them,” EA coach Barry Whittington said. “We were turning it over, throwing the ball directly to them, so you don’t have any choice but to let them score.”
East Ascension took control in the second quarter when it forced 10 Dutchtown turnovers. The Griffins, who led 9-6 after one quarter, only got off three shots from the field in the second.
Dutchtown led 13-12 with 4:35 left in the half but turned the ball over on its next six possessions. EA’s Jimel London had a pair of steals and scored four points to help the Spartans take an 18-15 lead.
Shedrick Smith’s late 3-pointer put EA on top 23-16 at halftime.
“These kids showed some resolve and resilience against a good team,” Dutchtown coach Patrick Hill said. “Hopefully, the scenarios we faced, the mistakes we made, we can learn from them and benefit down the line.”
Learning has been an important part of EA’s season. Still, Whittington said he had hoped his team would handle the environment at Dutchtown better.
“This is our 18th game, so I’d envision we wouldn’t have to go through this,” Whittington said. “The way the game was going, we should have shot layups and free throws and closed the game out. Which we didn’t do.”