Don’t call it a comeback. Call it hard work finally coming to fruition.
The defending Class 4A girls basketball champions and last year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic runner-up Warren Easton found itself in the position of trailing St. Michael for nearly three quarters.
However, Easton mounted the comeback, erasing what was once a nine-point deficit to pull out a 59-53 victory over St. Michael in the first round of the sixth AllState Sugar Bowl Prep Classic at Westwego’s Alario Center on Thursday night.
“They always seem to need to have their backs against the wall before they start playing,” Easton coach Darius Mimms said with a noticeable grin on his face.
“We did it tonight and we came out on top, and we did it against a good 4A team. I told the girls this is our playoff game (Thursday night). We had a tough start to the beginning of the season, and this one tonight was about getting our swagger back.”
The Eagles (9-7) fell victim to a poor shooting first half. Easton missed its first six shots from the field before sophomore Kayln Green ended the streak with a bucket late in the opening quarter.
Easton was hindered by a 25-percent mark from the field tha led to a 27-23 deficit at halftime.
“That’s been our problem all year: We can’t put the ball in the basket,” Mimms said. “We’re young. We’re giving energy, but the girls can’t put it in the hole yet.”
St. Michael took advantage, too, opening the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Essa Badon, which extended the Warriors’ (14-6) lead to seven.
However, Easton continued to chip away at the lead until freshman Kiana Anderson’s layup as the third quarter expired to give the Eagles their first lead at 44-43.
Momentum shifted into the Eagles’ corner. Junior Isis St. Julien connected from long range and senior Kechelle Figueroa broke her shooting slump with a 3-pointer to move ahead 54-50. After four lead changes, Easton took control once and for all.
Figueroa led Easton with 15 points and nine rebounds. Keiara Williams finished with 10 points and eight boards. Anderson and Nikole Haroon each chipped in seven points.
St. Michael was paced by Julia Wicker’s 14 points. Badon finished with 13 points and Sabree Wilson added 12.
St. Michael coach Tami McClure wasn’t fazed by the loss, realizing these losses serve as teaching moments, particularly as her team goes against the defending state champions.
“That’s why we’re in the tournament: it’s great competition to get ready for the playoffs,” she said. “We can see where we’re at this time of the year, what we need to work on and improve on. That’s all we can do.”