McKinley’s Tyreona Sibley was overcome with emotion when she talked about her team.

A 53-39 McKinley victory over Zachary in the title game of the East Baton Rouge Parish Girls Basketball tournament might not sound like much to some. Sibley begs to differ.

“Last year we came in and took some lumps … it was hard,” Sibley said. “But we kept working and working. We started with nothing and now we have built something. We hustle and don’t give up. And we’re not done yet.”

Sibley, a sophomore, was voted the MVP of the four-day tournament held at Scotlandville. With a win over second-seeded Zachary the day after ousting top-seeded Liberty, No. 4 McKinley (4-0) remains unbeaten.

And perhaps more importantly, this McKinley team served notice that it is trending up as the 2021-22 season takes off.

“Again, it’s all about defense,” McKinley coach Krystal Flowers said. “Everything comes back to that. On the nights you don’t shoot well you can always play defense.

“I am proud of their effort. They will tell you I am pretty hard on them. But they work and are so hungry to improve.”

A night after receiving a post-game fist-bump from former Capitol, LSU and WNBA star Seimone Augustus following a 29-point effort in the win over Liberty, Sibley was content to be part of a balanced attack. Trinitee Whitaker had 15 points and Sibley pitched in 13.

Paige Hawkins had 10, including five first-quarter points that got the Panthers off to a solid start. Ambria Langley also scored 15 points to lead Zachary (3-1), which had 42 turnovers, many unforced.

McKinley jumped out to an 10-4 lead in the first quarter. Hawkins opened the game with a rainbow 3-pointer and later scored on a jumper from the left side to give the Panthers an 8-4 lead.

A putback by Whitaker made it 10-4 and forced a Zachary time out. The Broncos went on a 8-3 run to pull within one at 13-12 by the end of the quarter. Talyn Thomas had two baskets to help fuel the comeback.

Thomas scored again just over a minute into the second quarter, giving the Broncos a 14-13 lead. Sibley and Miyanah Booker scored back-to-back baskets to complete a 5-0 run that made it 18-14 McKinley with four minutes left.

The Panthers led by as much as six points and took a 25-20 lead into the locker room. McKinley dominated the third quarter, outscoring Zachary 12-4 during one sequence. The Panthers led by as much as 12 points and took a 40-31 lead into the fourth quarter.

Zachary got as close as seven points, at 42-35, on a bucket by Langley with 5:15 remaining. Hawkins also hit four fourth-quarter free throws to help McKinley extend its lead once again. Whitaker also had four points in the final quarter.

“They worked hard for this and they deserve it,” Flowers said as she watched her team pose for pictures with the championship banner.

Email Robin Fambrough at