ST. AMANT — There wasn’t any trade secrets once Courtney Julien came to the forefront when St. Amant needed him to dig the Gators out of an early hole.
Julien was there again in the second half when St. Amant began to gain some separation from rival East Ascension.
Julien scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the opening half and came up with a couple of key plays midway through the fourth quarter, sparking St. Amant to a 60-53 District 5-5A victory Friday over East Ascension at the Gold Dome.
“Courtney’s an amazing kid,” St. Amant coach Travis Uzee said. “We followed him. He can do some things and get us back in games and make some plays, but he can also make other people make plays. That’s why he’s so special. We know when we need him. He knows when he’s got to give it to somebody else.”
With the victory St. Amant (16-9, 3-1), remained a game behind Catholic High (16-5, 4-0) for the league lead.
Durell Symlie complimented Julien with 13 points, while Nick Griffin added 10 for the Gators, who shot 50 percent for the game and made 20 of 32 free throw, including 14 of 22 in the fourth quarter.
The game was tied five times and experienced three lead changes through the first 25 minutes when St. Amant’s 8-1 run resulted in a 46-40 lead near the five-minute mark after consecutive baskets from Smylie and Julien.
EAHS (10-14, 2-2) narrowed the gap to 46-43 on a 3-pointer from Kameron Kelson, who led the Spartans with 12 points, and later to 51-50 on a drive from Jimel London with 58 seconds to play.
St. Amant took advantage of being in the double bonus with four players combining on 9-of- 10 free-throw shooting, including one from Julien with 21.2 seconds left that made it 57-50 — the Gators’ largest lead.
EAHS, which shot 41 percent in the second half, compounded its troubles with two of its 19 turnovers in consecutive trips down the floor. The last one transpired with 24 seconds left and resulted in an intentional foul with Crandell Christoff making both free throws.
“It’s the same old story,” EAHS coach Barry Whittington said. “We don’t get blown out. We just lose. Right now I’m trying to get the guys to learn from some of those key moments. We’re young, and it shows up. We’re getting better.”
EAHS made 6 of its first 10 shots and established a 13-6 lead on Bilal Frank’s fastbreak layup – the biggest lead for the Spartans.
Julien concluded the first quarter with a three-point play, and Carter Templet’s 3-pointer from the top of key tied it at 16 in the early stages of the second quarter when Travis Cole gave the Gators a 26-24 lead at halftime with a free throw.
“We talked all week about it’s been a while since St. Amant’s beaten EA,” Uzee said. “EA’s had a good basketball tradition the last few years, and we circled this one as a game we really wanted.
“Of course it’s in our district, and that makes more important.”