For Kalani Brown and her Salmen teammates, the sugar was even sweeter the second time.
Brown poured in a game-high 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Salmen’s 56-44 victory over top-ranked and undefeated Warren Easton to repeat as champions of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
Brown, a 6-foot-6 Baylor signee, was named tournament Most Valuable Player for the second straight year as well.
But this was much tougher with the Spartans losing two starters (both playing in college) off last year’s Class 4A state championship team.
Brown now leads a team that dressed out just eight players, including two freshmen and a sophomore.
“We have come a long way,” Brown said. “We just have to work a little harder. I call (the freshmen) my babies, and I’m getting them transitioned to high school.”
Salmen improved to 14-3 and avenged one of its three losses.
Easton beat Salmen 63-54 in the Hahnville Tournament in December.
But Salmen, ranked No.5 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, controlled this one from the beginning, then withstood a late Easton rally to push its winning streak to eight.
“This team is growing up,” Salmen coach Kevin Anderson said. “We are improving game by game. As the team starts to jell with each other and different players step forward, the team just gets better.”
Brown almost had a double-double by halftime when she scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds to give the Spartans a 31-21 lead at intermission.
“Kalani gets the rebounds, Kalani Brown scores the points, Kalani Brown can even dribble it up the court now a days,” Anderson said.
Brown got plenty of help inside from junior Kayla Sibley, who scored nine of her 15 points in the first half. Arianna Cooks finished with 10 points.
But the Eagles (20-1), ranked No. 1 in The Super 10, didn’t go away.
Trailing by as many as 13 points (37-24) midway through the third quarter, Easton chipped away and cut it to 44-40 with 5:14 left in the game on a back-to-back baskets by Keira Williams.
But they could never get any closer.
“If we played the first half with the energy we played with in the second half, it would have been a totally different outcome,” Easton coach Darius Mimms said.
But some of his energy was sitting on the bench.
Junior guard Kechelle Figueroa sat out most of the game with an ankle injury suffered in Friday’s quarterfinals. Fugueroa, who scored 24 points on Friday, entered the game in the fourth quarter.
“No excuses,” Mims said. “I don’t know what it is, but the last couple years it seems like every time we play Salmen, we are fighting some type of adversity. … We are going to take this and learn from it. We get them again in February in our gym. We were planning to be 21-0 when this day was over and we came up short.”
Williams led Easton with 15 points and Shaniqua Tobias scored 10.
Tobias, Figueroa and Sabrina Banks made the all-tournament team for Easton.
Salmen’s Tiara Warren, who finished with six points, also made the all-tournament team.
For Salmen, it capped a big week. In addition to beating the top-ranked team, the Spartans beat No. 2 ranked previously undefeated Karr on Monday and No. 4 Destrehan on Saturday in the semifinals.
“It’s pretty big,” Brown said. “It shows our potential and how much we can bring to the table.”
Olivia Gorman (Germantown, Pennsylvania), Taylor Berry (Mount Carmel), Rakell Spencer (Cabrini), Destanie Johnson (Karr) Cara Ursin (Destrehan) were also named to the All-Tournament team.