Darius Mimms will be the first to tell you the journey wasn’t easy.
But on Monday, the state championship trophy sat on Warren Easton Principal Alexina Medley’s desk, just like Mimms promised her it someday would.
He made the promise four years ago, right when the Easton girls basketball team was booted from the playoffs after what the LHSAA called a recruiting violation.
Mimms remembers it like it was yesterday.
“I was real emotional in her office that day, and I made a vow to her that ‘Ms. Medley, before you retire, I will put a trophy on your desk.’ ”
He proved to be a man of his word on Saturday night as Easton captured the Class 4A state championship with a 46-42 victory over Salmen.
It was the first girls basketball state championship in school history for Easton, which finishes No. 1 in The New Orleans Advocate’s season-ending Super 10 rankings.
Easton (33-1) ended the season on a 16-game winning streak. Their only blemish this season was a loss to Salmen in the Sugar Bowl Classic, but Easton won three of the other games this season against the Spartans.
But the one Saturday is the one that really mattered. It avenged a loss in last season’s championship game, and it also ended what has been a steady progression to the top for the girls on Canal Street.
Easton reached the title game last season, the semifinals in 2013 and the quarterfinals in 2012.
The year before that, Easton went 23-5 in the regular season before former guard Lawriel Wilson was ruled ineligible because of a rule that prohibits coaches or representatives of member schools from coaching players in summer programs prior to their enrollment. Mimms had helped coach Wilson that summer.
It was on Feb. 14, 2011, when Mimms had to break the news to his team that their season was over.
“We were going to be a four- or fifth-ranked seed that year, and the bottom fell out,” Mimms said. “So Saturday when we won it, my emotions were so high because I thought back to that Valentine’s Day when I had to tell the team that year that the season was over.”
Saturday’s win was also special for Mimms, who often hear the doubters who thought he may not ever win one, especially after coming up short in 2013 in Wilson’s last season.
“I feel lighter now since I got that monkey off my back,” said Mimms, who just finished his ninth season. “Every year it seemed like people would be asking ‘What happened? What happened?’ Now we don’t have to get asked that question anymore.”
The Eagles used a balanced attack to win the title.
Guard Kechelle Figueroa Shaniqua Tobias and Nikole Haroon gave the team rock solid guard play. Sabrina Banks, who finished with a game-high 17 points Saturday, was deadly from beyond the arc, knocking down five 3-pointers in the title game. Kearia Williams and backup Dene’ Mimms gave the Eagles a solid inside presence.
They didn’t just win this one for Easton though. This one was also for Orleans Parish.
Easton became the first public school from Orleans Parish to win a title in girls basketball.
Edna Karr coach Jessica Barber considers an Easton championship as the next best thing since her team fell short in the semifinals.
“Sports is the perfect platform for positive recognition, especially in a city that doesn’t get too much positive media,” Barber said. “I’m thankful that Warren Easton and Coach Mimms brought the title back to Orleans Parish, especially as a public school. I have the utmost respect for Coach Mimms and what he does for the kids and this community. They deserve the recognition and should be so proud of what they have done at that school.”
The Easton family was beaming with pride and excitement on Monday.
Players were being congratulated all day as they walked around school.
Mimms received standing ovations each time he walked into a classroom.
The special needs students at the school got in on the celebration as well, decorating the door of their classroom.
The sign on their door played off what has been the theme all season at Easton: “Keep Calm: We’ve got next.”
They changed it to “Don’t keep calm. We won.”
“It’s still surreal,” Mimms described. “It’s just a good feeling.”