BRUSLY —During their two District 6-1A encounters that were nearly a month apart Southern Lab and White Castle waged an intense, closely-contested race that left them tied for the league’s championship.
After winning on each other’s home floor, the Lady Kittens weren’t in the mood for more drama.
Guard Salis Payne scored a game-high 18 and center Cailain Williams added 17, leading Southern Lab to a convincing 46-29 victory Saturday over White Castle at Brusly High in a game that determined the league’s top seed for the Class 1A state playoffs.
“We played with some heart and brought our defense up to another level,” Payne said.
Southern Lab (24-5), which stumbled with two losses in its last four regular-season games, showed evidence of getting back on track in time for the postseason. The Kittens project to be a No. 4 seed Monday when the LHSAA releases its playoff pairings.
“Those losses made us re-adjust our thinking pattern, and hopefully it’s set now,” Southern Lab coach Henry Combs said. “I feel good about how everybody jelled together.”
The lopsided outcome — the biggest deficit in the three games between the teams — shouldn’t affect the opportunity for White Castle (13-15) to host a first-round playoff game.
“I told the girls we’re still co-district champs,” White Castle coach Tammy Pierce said. “This was for a point in the power rankings. These were two great teams, so you couldn’t have asked for more. I’m proud of my girls.”
Southern Lab yielded the game’s first basket on Brooklyn Falcon’s layup and then reeled off 17 unanswered points for a commanding 17-2 lead at the 6:16 mark of the second quarter.
Payne fueled her team’s run with three straight jump shots and Williams, an LSU commitment, made a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in the opening quarter. Guard Laila Hampton’s driving layup capped Southern Lab’s surge. During that span, White Castle made 1-of-10 shots and committed five of its 22 turnovers.
White Castle’s top scorers — Ashanti Knight and Falcon who combined for 43 points in last Saturday’s 48-47 win over Southern Lab — were limited to three first-half points.
Falcon finished with a team-high eight, along with guard Blessed Franklin, while Knight had three.
White Castle, which shot 19.4 percent for the game, cut into Southern Lab’s 24-6 halftime lead with a 7-0 run that made it 26-14 midway through the third quarter. In the run, Franklin knocked down a 3-pointer and Falcon scored after a steal.
Payne scored 12 of her game-high total in the second half, including a stretch of eight straight on a pair of baskets and four consecutive free throws, to push Southern Lab’s lead to 44-22 with 4:34 to play.
“We focused on what they did and who their best players were,” Payne said. “We came here and did what we had to do.”