These Ouachita Lions certainly like to make things interesting.
Playing in the last of 10 contests that attracted 11,900 high school basketball fans to the CenturyLink Center, Ouachita squandered a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead, was taken into overtime by East Ascension, then escaped with an 82-78 overtime win.
The win allows the Lions to move to the LHSAA Class 5A state championship contest in their hometown next weekend against Scotlandville.
“I thought it was a fantastic basketball game for the fans. These teams were well-coached and well-disciplined,” Ouachita coach Casey Jones said. “You have to give credit to East Ascension for making us go faster than we wanted to. I’m happy for our kids and I hope we can finish the deal.”
Jones will be taking the Lions (28-4) to a title game for the third time. He won a title in 2009, while falling short in 2006.
The Spartans staged an amazing comeback without their 6-foot-7 center Jacardo Hawkins for most of the fourth quarter and all of the overtime. East Ascension scored 34 points in the first three quarters, then put up 24 alone in the fourth. Ouachita won the overtime period 14-10, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Chris Sumbler and key free throws from Josh Harris.
Were it not for the 5 points Ouachita scored after technical fouls on Hawkins and East Ascension coach Kenny Almond, the Spartans (27-4) might have lived to fight another day.
“Our games aren’t called that way in Baton Rouge,” Almond said. “We started clawing and grabbing in the second half when we found out that was okay.”
The Lions managed to get out to a 10-point advantage early in the third quarter thanks to buckets from three different players.
Chris Sumbler came out of the gates quickly for the Lions, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in a low-scoring first quarter. Only one other Lion scored in the frame and that was a bucket underneath by Dearius Rollins.
East Ascension also got three buckets from Jacardo Hawkins with all coming inside the paint. The Lions led 11-10 after a quarter of play.
Ouachita’s Jimari Jones came up big in the second quarter, scoring 7 of his team’s 14 points, as the Lions built a 25-17 lead at the break. East Ascension managed just two field goals in the frame, a 3-pointer by Eric Williams and a putback by Hawkins, who had 10 points by halftime.