NEW ORLEANS — Warren Easton’s 57-43 win over Salmen on Wednesday night started on the perimeter, where sophomore Sabrina Banks came off the bench to lead an offensive surge.
It continued on defense. The top-ranked Eagles denied Kalani Brown in the post, forcing her teammates to make shots. When Brown did get the ball, she was swarmed by white jerseys.
She often missed or her shot was blocked, a role reversal for the 6-foot-5 sophomore.
And this highly anticipated, nondistrict rematch to end the regular season ended in transition, where Easton’s Lawriell Wilson, Kechelle Figueroa and Alisha Celestine dazzled in the open court, converting nearly as many layups as they forced turnovers.
“We just played good defense,” Wilson said. “Played hard on offense.”
Wilson scored 15 points in a packed home gym — several colleges were in attendance, including Hammond native Kim Mulkey, coach of Baylor, the defending NCAA champions. Later Thursday, the Eagles, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A entering the playoffs, will learn their playoff seeding.
Easton is aiming to become what is believed to be the first squad from an Orleans Parish public school to win a state girls basketball championship. Salmen (25-8), which lost in last season’s title game, is also expected to be a postseason favorite.
Which is why Wednesday’s game served as potential playoff matchup.
In January, Easton beat Salmen 42-39 in the girls championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
This time, the game was not as close as the final score.
It all started with Banks, who scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers. Two of her shots occurred in the first quarter, allowing Easton to jump out to a 17-6 lead which Salmen never recovered from.
“Whenever (coach) puts me in, I’m ready to shoot,” she said. “It’s all day, too easy.”
Maybe not that easy, but Salmen was unable to adjust to a defensive strategy it has faced often this season. After Christy Ducre scored on a layup, the game’s first points, Easton started a 17-4 run, using its recipe of strong defense which led to easy offense. The effort deflated Salmen for the rest of the first half.
“That really hurt us,” said Salmen’s Megan Brown, who scored 11 points. “If we bring that intensity of the second half to the first half, it’s a different game.
“Honestly, I’d rather it happen right now, because we needed that wake-up call. To understand in order to beat the No. 1, we’ve got to play.”
Kalani Brown scored eight of her 15 points in the second half.
By then, Easton had built a lead as large as 18 in the final minutes.
“They played outstanding defense,” Salmen coach Kevin Anderson said. “They got plenty blocked shots. They pressured us.
“They won the game.”