The message on the Warren Easton scoreboard Monday night — Home 63, Guest 44 — wasn’t nearly as important as the message on the T-shirts.
On a day people all across the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day, players from Warren Easton and Edna Karr sported T-shirts during pregame warm-ups with a more important message: “Stop the Violence.”
The late Dr. King would have surely been proud.
“He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it,” King once said.
Karr coach Jessica Barber helped come up with the idea, and Easton coach Darius Mimms obliged.
“We wanted to come together to make awareness of gun violence because both teams have had someone, either indirectly or indirectly, affected by it,” Barber said.
Mimms and Barber wore the shirts during the game between the No. 2 Eagles, who improved to 22-1 after beating the No. 3 Cougars (18-3) for the second time this season.
Both coaches were as competitive as usual Monday night, but on this night, both were also on the same team trying to help do their part with an issue that has plagued their city and made it one of the most violent places in the country.
Mimms tries to spread the message to his students in the classroom.
“I preach to them constantly to get as much as you can out of education,” he said. “If you don’t have anything like education to help you compete in the world, then you are thrust right out there into the realm of the violence. It’s a cold world out there.”
It’s a cold world both coaches have had to experience.
Mimms lost someone he went to high school with recently.
Their players and fellow coaches have dealt with family members being gunned down.
“It’s affected a lot of us before,” Easton senior guard Shaniqua Tobias said. “So to wear those shirts tonight just made me want to play harder.”
Tobias had a big night, scoring a game-high 24 points, including six 3-pointers.
For some, the effects of senseless violence hit closer to home.
Easton star guard Kechelle Figueroa said she lost her brother to gun violence in August.
The pain still lingers (probably always will) so she didn’t want to talk about it.
There was no need to. Her play spoke volumes.
She finished with 16 points.
The two guards combined for 10 3-pointers in the game (six by Tobias, four by Figueroa.).
Sabrina Banks also knocked down a trey, giving Easton 11 for the game that wasn’t as close as the folks who packed into the gym had expected.
“We play well at home and shoot really well in our gym,” Mimms said. “Our shots were falling. When our shots are falling, we are hard to beat.”
Easton built an early 24-9 lead in the first half. Karr didn’t do much to help itself, going 11 minutes and 8 seconds without a field goal during one stretch. A layup by Rehema Franklin with 3:23 left in the second quarter was the Cougars’ first field goal since the 6:23 mark of the first quarter. Franklin finished with a team-high 12 points.
Karr cut it to 44-39 late in the third quarter, but never could get any closer.
“I’m just glad we got out of here with a win,” Mimms said after the game.
It was the second straight season the teams have met on the holiday, but the first time they stood together for a cause.
“It’s not a huge thing, but it’s one of those things that Martin Luther King prided himself on, so we wanted to do something as part of the movement,” Barber said. “We want it to get bigger.”
Here’s hoping that a day comes when it doesn’t have to get bigger. A day when the violence actually stops.
Players from both teams stood in unison before tip-off and offered their plea, holding hands and saying a prayer.
After the prayer, they shouted “Stop the violence.”