It’s already been a special season for Jay Carlin and his Salmen Spartans.
Carlin got his 800th career win in December.
His Spartans won a district title in February, then earned the No. 1 seed in Class 4A two weeks ago.
On Saturday night, they’ll play for the state championship.
Salmen pulled away in the second half Thursday night for a 56-45 victory over No. 12 McDonogh 35 in the semifinals of the Boys Top 28 Tournament at Burton Coliseum.
“All I want to do is win,” Salmen’s Corey Vinson said. “That’s all I’m here for.”
Salmen (26-5) will play defending state champion Landry-Walker at 8 on Saturday in an all-New Orleans area finale. It was Landry-Walker that ended Salmen’s season a year ago, ousting the Spartans 63-55 in the quarterfinals.
Vinson scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Spartans, who are going for their second state title and first since winning in 2009. Chris Vickers added 15 points and Alex Taylor had 13.
“Three games ago, when we started this playoff run, we said if we could ever get all of our guys on the same night being efficient on the offensive end, we could really be good and get to this point,” Carlin said. “Basically the last three games we have had that. I’m very proud of all three of them. These three were the catalysts tonight.”
Taylor banked in a 3-pointer from just inside the half-court line at the end of the half to give the Spartans a 21-16 lead at halftime.
“It was a 50-50 ball, and I just grabbed it and just shot it,” Taylor said.
It was a good finish after a slow start for the Spartans.
Salmen trailed 8-6 at the end of the first quarter but started the second with a 9-2 run. Taylor capped off the run with a 3-pointer with 4:32 left in the quarter that gave Salmen a 15-10 lead.
Salmen outscored the Roneagles 15-8 in the quarter.
Salmen’s Corey Vinson and McDonogh 35’s DeJon Jarreau had nine points each at halftime to lead their teams.
The third quarter was all Spartans. They outscored McDonogh 35 19-9 in the quarter.
Salmen sophomore Cameron Vickers went down with a leg injury with 3:49 left in the quarter and his team leading 28-25. But it didn’t slow Salmen down one bit. They scored the final 12 points of the quarter to take a 40-25 lead.
“That run started on the defensive end,” said Vickers.
Chris Vickers had a pair of 3-pointers during the run, and Taylor had another.
Salmen scored its final 11 points from the free-throw line, going 11 for 12 down the stretch.
Dejon Jarreau scored 17 points for the Roneagles (20-13), who were making their first trip to the Top 28.
“I’m just sorry it had to end this way,” Roneagles coach Kevin Sanders said. “We weren’t able to perform to the best of our abilities. We had a bunch of mental breakdowns in the second half. We gave up 20 points in a quarter and that’s odd for us… We ran into a buzzsaw tonight and just couldn’t get over the top.”
Bryson Gresham and Joseph Foucha scored 13 points each for 35, which loses just one senior off this year’s team.
“This was a good experience and we will learn from it,” said Bryson Gresham.
Meanwhile, Carlin looks to add another feather in the cap of a career that has spanned 40 seasons, including 31 at Salmen.
But he wasn’t ready to talk about Saturday’s title game just yet.
“Let me enjoy this one first,” he said with a laugh.