East Ascension boys win second straight District 5-5A championship

GONZALES — It looked like the perfect scenario for Woodlawn. The Panthers held fifth-ranked East Ascension under 50 points and got Spartans post player, Ja’Cardo Hawkins out of the game on fouls.

The only thing missing was a win. Jeremy McInnis scored a game-high 17 points to help East Ascension come away with a 44-41 victory over Woodlawn Friday night at EAHS.

McInnis scored seven points in the crucial third quarter as EAHS built a 12-point lead. Hawkins finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, despite fouling out with 4:02 to go in the game.

With the victory, the Spartans (26-3, 8-1) wrapped up their second straight District 5-5A title.

“We picked up on (Alabama football coach Nick) Saban’s deal about using the R word,” EAHS coach Kenny Almond said with a smile as his players cut down the net. “You can’t say repeat until you do it. This was good. I’m really proud of this team. We’ve been through a lot.”

Chris Williams finished with 14 points to pace Woodlawn (20-9, 5-4). Derek Graves and Tyree Spurlock each had nine for the Panthers. Graves hit two long 3-pointers in the final 7.9 seconds following two EAHS turnovers.

Under high school rules, the clock does not stop after a made basket. After Graves’ second 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds remaining, all the Spartans had to do was run out the clock.

“We took good shot early, but they didn’t go in,” Woodlawn coach Elmo Fernandez said. “We couldn’t score. We’ve been playing games like this all year long, and we’re used to that. But we got in such a deep, deep hole and it was tough to come back.”

East Ascension controlled the first quarter by making 4-of-5 shots from the floor. The 6-foot-7 Hawkins was presence early, despite attracting a triple team from the Woodlawn defense.

Hawkins had two first-quarter baskets and McInnis had a 3-pointer to help East Ascension run out to an 11-4 lead.

Woodlawn struggled in the first quarter, making just 2-of-11 shots from the field. After Hawkins went to the bench when he pickedg up his second foul, the Panthers slowly worked their way back into it.

Williams scored all nine of his first-half points in the second quarter to help Woodlawn battle back. Williams opened the quarter with a 3-pointer and then made back-to-back field goals late in the period to get the Panthers within two points.

Despite making just 1-of-10 shots from the floor in the second quarter, EAHS retained a 19-15 halftime edge. The Spartans made all six of their second-quarter free throws, including four by McInnis.

Woodlawn started slow again in the third quarter. The Panthers didn’t score until Lazare made a free throw at the 5:12 mark. By that time, East Ascension was ahead 26-16.

The Spartans successfully used a back screen play with Hawkins and McInnis to build the lead. Hawkins scored twice. McInnis had a three-point play and another basket.

Two free throws by McInnis with 48.9 seconds left helped EAHS take a 34-22 lead into the fourth quarter.

East Ascension held a comfortable lead until the final two minutes.

The Spartans did miss a few free throws down the stretch, leaving the door open for a Woodlawn rally. However, two free throws by McInnis with 29.9 seconds helped provide the winning margin.

“When we pulled Ja’Cardo up, we were able to back screen with Jeremy,” Almond said. “We never got a big lead, but we got enough. This is a tough league to win games in. I don’t know how good any of us are, but I know we play each other good.”