Kalani Brown MVP as East beats West in girls all-star basketball game _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD Salmen High School's Kalani Brown

SHREVEPORT — A heavy dose of Baylor-signee Kalani Brown of Salmen after intermission along with some stingy defense allowed the East to dominate the West 86-65 in Saturday afternoon’s Louisiana High School Coaches Association Girls All-Star game at Hirsch Coliseum.

Featuring some of the top players in the state, the seniors-only event capped the prep careers for the 30 participating players, and gave winning coach Nancy Walsh of Cabrini some respite from her doldrums.

“After my team lost in the playoffs, I needed to get back in the gym, because I’m a gym rat,” said Walsh, a first-time All-Star coach. “I’m not sure how I was selected for this, but I’ve had a blast coaching these great athletes.”

That included Brown, who picked up three fouls in the game’s first five minutes and spent most of the first half on the bench. Brown’s absence allowed the West to control things early with its small, quick lineup.

“We weren’t playing defense as hard as we should have in the first half,” said Brown, who celebrated her 18th birthday by earning the game’s MVP honor. “But we made some adjustments at halftime and did what we were supposed to do, playing more team ball.”

Although the West team controlled the first half behind some local stars, Brown was unstoppable down low after intermission. Although she played an equal amount of time with the other 10 roster members on her squad, she finished with 16 points. Mount Carmel’s Taylor Berry also had 16 points and Wichita State-signee Jyar Francis of Ponchatoula 14 for the East.

“With their size in the full court, it was tough on us,” West coach Sheila Dupree of Plain Dealing said. “They took us out of what we were trying to do. But I enjoyed this entire experience.”

Headed to Northwestern State in the fall, Benton’s Gabby Jackson often had to contend with Brown in the paint, but held her own. She was disappointed her team didn’t win.

“Free throws. Free throws. Free throws. We didn’t make them and we gave them too many,” Jackson said. “But this was an amazing experience to play with and against some girls I may be playing against this fall.”

The West pushed out to a 25-13 lead in the first half following a pair of buckets by Ville Platte’s Deja McKinney, who led the West with 13 points. But the East trimmed the deficit to just 25-20 with 7:10 to play in the half behind six points apiece from Francis and Mikayla Bates of University High.

Kaylen Collins of Vermilion Catholic scored for the West with about a minute remaining in the frame to stake her team to a 40-35 halftime advantage.

But the West was held without a field goal until over six minutes had passed in the second half, as the East went on a 14-1 run to take charge of the contest. Anna Claire Shaw of Lake Arthur added 11 points for the West.