By Peter Silas Pasqua
ST. AMANT - East Ascension erased a 12-point third quarter deficit with a furious 12-0 run in the final frame to rally by Hammond 61-54 in the final game of the opening round of the Ralph Sellers Gold Dome Classic Wednesday night.
Donald LeBlanc nailed four straight free throws to kick start the rally that was capped by Tyler Wright’s visit to the charity stripe which put East Ascension ahead 49-45.
“It wasn’t anything mind boggling. More than anything else, it was a change in our attitude toward the game,” East Ascension head coach Kenny Almond said. “A lot of credit goes to Willie Williams. He brought some toughness and I think we fed off that. They ran us out of our offense but when we got some steals, we played well. It was the mindset more than anything else. We just told them to start playing tough.”
East Ascension beat Hammond at the buzzer 61-58 in last year’s semifinals of the tournament to cap a 20-point comeback.
“We were concerned,” Almond said. “Seeing that all five of those guys were back, I really thought it was going to be a tough night and it was. We were lucky in a lot of ways but we woke up and hopefully it sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
Keith Fleming led all scorers with 20 points for East Ascension (5-2), while LeBlanc added 15, Curtis Watts provided 11 and Wright had eight.
Mike Henry paced the Tornadoes (3-1) with 17 points, while Kylan Douglas added 15 and Mark Bridgewater had 10.
“When you go one for 20 from three you are not going to win very many games,” Hammond head coach Brent Grigas said. “We have never shot it that bad and we don’t plan on shooting it that bad again. Coach Almond is a great coach and they really picked up the pressure and forced our guards into some turnovers in the second half that normally doesn’t happen. We started reaching and a couple of kids fouled out which hurt us.”
Douglas’ putback gave Hammond a 38-26 lead in the third quarter. Henry’s dish to Douglas off a steal kept the deficit at 12 going into the final frame after LeBlanc drove lane.
LeBlanc fed Fleming off a steal to open the fourth quarter before Fleming returned the favor. LeBlanc’s dish to Fleming inside in transition knotted it up 45-45 with 4:24 left to play after Fleming’s putback. Fleming’s turnaround jumper off Watts’ inbounds pass put the Spartans ahead for good.
“(LeBlanc) is a ninth grader playing at a high level,” Almond said. “He has to understand he is playing varsity basketball. He is going to learn from his mistakes. We are expecting a lot of things out of him and he still surprises us with some of the great things he does but the more he does it, the more we expect it out of him.”
Wright and Fleming’s inside buckets sandwiched Gary Johnson’s before Watts and LeBlanc’s free throws down the stretch sealed the win.
Terrence Bridges’ putback gave Hammond a 4-0 lead to open the contest before DeAndre Smith’s put the Spartans on the board. Henry sandwiched a baseline drive and lay up off a steal around LeBlanc’s lane drive to make it 8-4.
LeBlanc’s spin in the lane put East Ascension ahead after Smith’s 3-pointer near the top of the key. Bridgewater’s free throws put Hammond back ahead after his layup off a steal and Watts’ putback. Fleming’s inside bucket and one off an inbounds pass knotted it up 14-14 going into the second quarter.
Henry’s 3-pointer from the right corner opened the frame before Watts’ 19 footer in the left corner. Watts’ baseline jumper put East Ascension ahead 20-17 before Henry’s floater across the lane and drive in transition gave the Tornadoes the lead. Bridgewater and Henry’s lay ups off steals pushed the lead to 32-22 before Smith’s 19-footer from the right corner cut it to eight at halftime.
Coutesy of the Gonzales Weekly Citizen