Top-seeded Warren Easton beats Cabrini, going back to title game _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye- Cabrini's Rakell Spencer, left, and Warren Easton's Sabrina Banks fight for a loose ball in a Class 4A semifinal at the Top 28 girls basketball state tournament Thursday.

LAKE CHARLES — Darius Mimms and his Warren Easton Eagles remember last year’s bus ride from Burton Coliseum back to New Orleans all too well.

The Eagles had just lost in the Class 4A state championship game.

“It seems like yesterday we were right here on the way, soaking in our sorrows thinking about what we woulda, coulda, shoulda done,” Mimms said.

Now the Eagles get another shot at it.

Easton, the No. 1 seed, made its way back to the championship game Thursday by pulling away in the second half for a 47-39 victory over No. 5 Cabrini in the 4A semifinals.

Easton will play Salmen at 6 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year’s title game. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between the Eagles and Spartans, with Easton having won two of the three.

“Now we have 32 more minutes to set the goal we had for ourselves,” Mimms said.

Kechelle Figueroa and Shaniqua Tobias scored 13 points apiece to lead Easton (32-1).

Figueroa, a junior guard, scored all of her points in the second half.

“Coach told us it was win or go home, and I wasn’t going home,” Figueroa said. “I just came out and gave it my all and my team did too.”

The game was tied at 21 at halftime, but Easton started the third quarter on an 8-0 run and outscored Cabrini 14-7 in the quarter.

Cabrini went the almost the entire quarter without a field goal. Rakell Spencer ended the drought with a bucket in the lane with 33.1 seconds left in the quarter. By that time Easton had built a 35-27 lead.

Spencer’s basket was the beginning of an 8-0 run by Cabrini. The Crescents cut it to 35-32 with 4:57 remaining.

But then Nikole Haroon, the unsung starter in Easton’s lineup, came up with a steal and fed Shaniqua Tobias who drained a jumper that extended the lead back to five, 37-32.

“She is our tempo-setter,” Mimms said of Haroon.

Cabrini never got closer than four the rest of the way. Spencer led the Crescents (27-6) with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

“I told them in the third quarter they were going to come out and do what Easton does and hit the boards and make it tough for us,” Cabrini coach Nancy Walsh said. “We had trouble scoring. We got in a hole, cut the deficit again, but we just couldn’t finish it. One of our mottos is ‘finish strong’ but we just came up short. It was a fantastic season.”

It was Easton’s third victory of the season over the Crescents (27-6). Easton defeated Cabrini 53-51 and 52-47 in two regular- season meetings between the District 9-4A teams

“They are fearless,” Mimms said about his team. “I think about all the clichés about beating a team three times and I look at the bracket and we have beaten all three of these teams twice. So every game is going to be tough.”

This one was no exception.

Easton led 10-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Shaniqua Tobias knocked down three straight 3-pointers to start the second quarter to give Easton a 19-11 lead. The third one came with 5:43 left in the quarter. But Easton then went on a scoring drought that lasted 5½ minutes and didn’t end until Keiara Williams banked in a jumper with 13 seconds remaining in the half.

While Easton struggled, Cabrini played catch-up.

Spencer helped spark a 10-0 run, and the game was tied at 21 at halftime. But the second half belonged to the Eagles.

Sabrina Banks, who had an off night, scored nine points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.

Williams finished with eight points and eight rebounds.