Salmen boys, girls eye Class 4A championships _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Salmen's Christopher Vickers, left, and Riverside's Van Julien battle for the ball during the first half Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, at Salmen.

The Salmen girls were expected to be one of the top-seeded teams in the Class 4A playoffs.

The boys though?

Even Salmen coach Jay Carlin wouldn’t have predicted a No. 1 seed.

“If you had told me at the beginning of the year, or even two months ago, that we were going to be No. 1 in the power rankings, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Carlin said. “But we played a good schedule, and we won a lot of games, and the teams we played won a lot of games, and I guess that’s the formula.”

That formula has Salmen as the top seed heading into the playoffs.

Carlin knew his team had a chance to be good though. He returned some key pieces from last year’s squad that last to eventual champion Landry-Walker in the quarterfinals.

The Spartans (25-5) open the playoffs at home on Friday against No. 32 Bastrop. They are looking to bring a state championship trophy back to Slidell for the first time since 2009.

They have done it this season somewhat flying a little under the radar. Although they have been ranked most of the season in The New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10, the Spartans have been somewhat overshadowed by the likes of Landry-Walker and Karr in Class 4A.

Heck, you can argue that they have even played in the giant shadow of 6-foot-6 center Kalani Brown and the Salmen girls team. Led by Brown, recently named to the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game, the Salmen girls are going for their third straight title. It was the Salmen girls team many thought would have been a No. 1 seed. They are the No. 2 seed, helping Salmen stake its claim as the state’s top overall girls/boys basketball program in the state this season.

“They have been very good and made a helluva run,” Carlin said. “They pull for us and we pull for them. We have had our years where we have been at the top, and they have had their years. This year, they have a chance to win their third in a row, and you don’t see that a lot in 4A and 5A.”

This year, perhaps Salmen can pull off the rare double and haul two trophies back from Lake Charles.

The girls will likely have to beat top seed Warren Easton in the title game.

Carlin, in his 31st season at Salmen and 40th as a coach, doesn’t like to look too far ahead like that.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “I know you have to take them one at a time. If you start looking at games down the line, you might not ever get there.”

But the bracket appears to have shaken out in the Spartans’ favor.

As the No. 1 seed, Salmen was able to avoid teams like Landry-Walker, Karr and Peabody until the championship game.

The bottom half of the 4A bracket is much more loaded than the top half, so things look to be in Salmen’s favor as far as making it to Lake Charles.

“Your goal is to get to the Top 28, and once you get there you try to win it,” Carlin said. “At this point, you have to bring your ‘A’ game.”

Carlin will rely on senior forward Chris Vickers, senior center Cody Rudolph, senior guard Corey Vinson and junior guards John Norvel and Lane Bolner.

“We’ve been blessed with a some talented players who are willing to work,” he said. “This team has a chance.”