LAKE CHARLES — When the LHSAA hosts one of its Allstate Sugar Bowl Top 28 basketball tournaments, you never know what to expect. It’s a little Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.
I can now say that there was sweet success not only for the winning teams, but also for the LHSAA with its Girls Top 28 tourney.
Overall, the games were great. There were few blowouts and plenty of outstanding performances. I doubt any of us will forget the performance of Salmen’s Kalani Brown, who finished with 30 points and 23 rebounds in a loss to Warren Easton in the Class 4A title game.
More important for the LHSAA was the attendance for the five-day tourney. Saturday’s four-game session attracted 5,169 fans, giving the tourney an impressive overall total of 19,916.
So you’re not impressed? Let me put it in perspective. I started attending this tournament in 1989 and have been a regular since 1992. A total of 17,000 or better is good for the LHSAA’s girls tourney.
The LHSAA stopped printing attendance figures in its game programs a few years ago, citing space concerns. I never really bought that, but I can tell you last Girls Top 28 total likely ranks in the top 10 all time.
Credit a huge crowd following Lake Charles area favorite Lacassine, the Class B state champion, with helping that cause. When the total was over 15,000 through Friday, I knew getting close to 20,000 was possible, but the numbers were better than even I expected.
I’m sure some fans wanted to see Salmen’s Brown play her final high school game before moving on to Baylor. The crowd on hand to watch Ponchatoula make history with its first state title in the 5A final was crucial too.
The tournament’s success is a huge shot in the arm for the LHSAA.
The move to a regional semifinal and final format that combined the previously separate girls and boys tourneys was a bust. Both tourneys struggled to regain their footing as separate tournaments last year at a new host site.
For years, the Top 28 tourneys thrived with the consistency of having the boys tourney in Lafayette and the girls tourney in Hammond.
When the tourneys moved to Lake Charles last year it was the fourth title site in four years.
We don’t know whether fans for the Boys Top 28 tourney will embrace a second year in Lake Charles the same way the girls fans did. You can put the Girls Top 28 in the wins column for the LHSAA, schools and fans.
One of the best yet
Salmen’s Brown was voted MVP on the Girls Top 28 all-tournament team selected by the media.
Also making the squad were Lacassine’s Madysson Brasseaux, University High’s Alanie Fisher, North Caddo’s Jasmine Thomas, Mansfield’s Ashlyn Jacobs, Warren Easton’s Sabrina Banks, North Central’s Jazlyn Robertson, Ponchatoula’s Arianna Hamilton and Rachel Sullivan, Vermilion Catholic’s Ashailee Brailey, Summerfield’s Nicole Bursey and North Caddo’s Sumer Williams.
Brown’s performance easily ranks among the best of all time. The notion of a player getting that many points and rebounds combined in a game is something we may not see again.
But it’s tough to compare Brown’s performance to others like Capitol’s Seimone Augustus and Alana Beard of Southwood, just to name two. Their roles and teams were so different.
I’m glad I got to see all of them play. If Brown’s career turns out to be anything like what Augustus and Beard have, there’s plenty to look forward to.