The top two girls basketball teams in the state didn’t get to play the final 6.1 seconds of their game Saturday.
Officials called it off at that point, awarding No. 2 Easton the win moments after Salmen assistant coach Dee Brown had been assessed a pair of technical fouls (and thus an ejection) for disputing a non-call.
With four Warren Easton free throws coming, it was pretty much over at that point anyway and that 6.1 seconds wouldn’t have mattered.
The only thing that will matter in this intense rivalry is the next 32 minutes.
Barring an upset along the way, that 32 minutes will take place March 6 or March 7 in Lake Charles in a winner-take-all Class 4A title game.
“I know we’ll see them again,” said Easton coach Darius Mimms. “I hope we see them again. That would mean we both made it to the championship game.”
It would be the second straight year the two teams have played for the 4A title and would be the fourth meeting of the season between the two powerhouses.
Mimms’ Eagles (28-1) have now defeated the two-time defending state champion Spartans (21-4) twice in three tries this season. Saturday’s victory avenged their lone loss in the Sugar Bowl Tournament title game.
As a result, the two teams will flip-flop for the top two spots in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10 on Tuesday and, more importantly, in the LHSAA Class 4A power rankings. (Karr, by the way, likely will be the No. 3 seed so don’t count the Cougars out).
But Saturday’s Round 3 was the latest chapter in the best rivalry in girls basketball in the city and perhaps the entire state.
It’s the girls basketball’s version of a Karr vs. St. Augustine football game.
How intense was this one?
Even football coaches were getting ejected.
Easton football coach Tony Hull had to leave the gym in the first half from his courtside seat as well.
“It’s very intense,” Mimms said. “We don’t want to give any. They don’t want to give any. They’ve got the hardware right now. They have what we want. And I never let my girls forget that.”
This one was close throughout. It was tied at 133 after one quarter and at 31 at halftime.
“It was a dogfight from the beginning to the end,” Salmen coach Kevin Anderson said.
Easton pulled ahead 41-34 midway through the third quarter, thanks in part to back-to-back 3-pointers by Sabrina Banks and Shaniqua Tobias.
But Kalani Brown, Dee Brown’s daughter, wouldn’t let her team go away.
The 6-foot 5 Baylor signee, recently named to the McDonald’s All American Game, had a monster game, finishing with 27 points and 18 rebounds. Teammate Tiara Warren added 15 points.
Brown scored five straight points towards the end of the third quarter to help Salmen climb back in it.
Like a heavyweight fight, it went back-and-forth the rest of the way.
The score was tied again at 47 with 4:41 left in the fourth on a steal and layup by Warren.
Then it was tied again at 51 on a layup by Easton’s Tobias.
Four straight free throws by Figueroa, who finished with 14 points helped Easton surge ahead again.
But Brown cut it to 57-55 with 37.2 seconds left.
It was Salmen’s final point of the game.
Tobias made one of two free throws for Easton’s final point.
Shortly afterwards, Figueroa and Warren jumped in the air for a loose ball, and Easton came up with it.
The officials thought it was clean.
Brown thought otherwise and was thus tossed for expressing her objection.
Anderson agreed with his assistant.
“When someone’s hand is on the ball, and you get your head ripped off and your body turned, you have to say something to the referee,” Anderson said.
And that’s how this one ended.
“You hate to see it end like that,” Mimms said. “You always want to see the game end with zeroes on the clock.”
This one didn’t.
The next one will.
“I think we will see them again,” said Tobias, who finished with 14 points. “I know we will see them again.”
For Tobias, a senior, it would be her final time playing against Salmen in the intense rivalry.
“Everybody thinks it’s big, but we try to not make it a big deal and we try to treat it just like a regular game,” she said.
Salmen and Easton isn’t just a regular game.
For anyone who doesn’t believe me, come to Lake Charles the first weekend in March.