GONZALES — The Mardi Gras season extended into Tuesday night with one final parade at East Ascension’s Spartan gymnasium.
The throws came in bunches from the free throw line — 83 in all — with Spartans reigning supreme by night’s end.
With St. Amant feverishly trying to erase a double-digit deficit by continually sending East Ascension to the foul line the entire fourth quarter the Spartans made enough of their attempts, holding off the Gators 73-67 in District 5-5A play on Tuesday.
“We made free throws when we needed to,” EAHS coach Barry Whittington Jr. said. “If we would have made them a lot earlier, the game wouldn’t have been as close. It was a good strategy by them because we hadn’t shot free throws very well lately.”
East Ascension (13-16) made 23 of 36 free throws over the final six minutes of play with Koye Ruffin, Shedrick Smith and Josh Andrews combining on 18 of those successful attempts.
Ruffin led a balanced scoring effort with 19 points that also included Andrews (16,) Bilal Frank (11) and Smith (10).
The Spartans, who were 32 of 52 for the game, extended their win streak to a season-high four games and host Catholic High on Thursday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
EA’s victory knocked St. Amant (19-11, 6-3) out a share for the District 5-5A lead which now belongs to Catholic (20-8, 7-2). The Beats beat Woodlawn, 38-36, Tuesday night.
“This team’s got some fight in them,” said St. Amant coach Travis Uzee, whose team hosts Dutchtown on Friday. “I’ve got a lot of confidence they’ll come back and play hard and let the chips fall where they may.”
EA established a double-figure lead in the first minute of the second quarter on a pair of free throws from Andrews and maintained it until there was 5:40 remaining in the game after Travis Cole’s two free throws made it 50-41.
In between the youthful Spartans came of age, shooting 54 percent in the first half and forcing 13 turnovers for a 37-20 halftime lead on Ruffin’s 35-foot, banked 3-pointer at the buzzer.
St. Amant’s comeback efforts were dealt a setback midway through the third quarter when leading scorer Courtney Julien suffered an ankle injury during a collision for a rebound.
Although Julien, who wound up with 19 points, didn’t leave the game he was hampered the rest of the way until fouling out with a minute to play.
“We were in a deficit and Courtney being down was another guy who couldn’t penetrate for us,” Uzee said. “We had to figure out anything we could do to get back in it.”
After EAHS made only 2 of its first 8 attempts in the quarter, St. Amant closed to 51-45 on a 3-pointer from Nick Griffin, who led his team with 20 points.
The Gators faced a 67-60 deficit with 49.5 seconds to go after Ruffin’s two free throws but got it to a one-possession game at 70-67 when Griffin was short on his 3-point try with 17 seconds left.
“I knew the game wasn’t going to be easy,” Whittington said. “All it takes is one guy to miss and then it becomes a cycle of guys missing. I’m glad we were able to pull it through and fortunate to be able to pull it out.”