WESTWEGO — Everything is a new experience for Warren Easton freshman Kechelle Figueroa.
Her first year of high school year. Her first season of varsity basketball. First game winner.
On Saturday night, Figueroa accomplished the later at the Alario Center, helping the Eagles upset Salmen 42-39 in the girls championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
After tying the game midway through the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, Figueroa sealed the victory in front of several hundred fans by sprinting through the Salmen defense en route to the rim where she finished with a layup with 50 seconds left.
“I’ve never done this before,” said Figueroa, who scored 12 points. “I just wanted to see how it felt.”
Junior guard Lawriell Wilson, who earned tournament most valuable player honors, scored a game-high 18 points. Jeremy Edwards, also named to the all-tournament team, finished with eight points.
Figueroa entered with plenty of organized basketball experience, from local parks to AAU competition but not in high school. Saturday’s game certainly served as her indroduction to the state scene, where Warren Easton is hoping to better last season’s Class 4A state quarterfinal apperance.
Salmen (14-2) served as Easton’s toughest test yet. The Spartans were the 4A runners-up. Salmen sophomore center Kalani Brown is the daughter of former NBA player P.J. Brown.
Brown scored seven points, her offense curtailed by Warren Easton center Alisha Celestine, who for most of the game forced Brown to score in the post, not at the free-throw line.
“They always look for (Brown) to get the ball,” Celestine said. “That was my job. That’s why (Salmen’s offense) was off. I just tried to stay parallel. I knew she was left-handed, so she was going to shoot left.”
With Salmen struggling to find its offense, Warren Easton jumped out to a 9-1 lead. Wilson made a 3-pointer and two free throws and Edwards scored twice in the post, away from Brown.
Salmen rallied, though. Macy DeGruy’s jump shot with 28 seconds left before hafltime gave the Spartans their first lead. They continued to contol the second half, but never pulled away from Warren Easton.
In the fourth, Warren Easton outscored Salmen 10-4, starting with Figueroa’s three-pointer.
After Meagan Brown converted two free throws with three minutes remaining, Celestine made her two biggest plays of the championship game, blocking shots by Kalani Brown and Hayley Pichon on consecutive possessions.
All that was left was Figueroa’s open-court move and finish.
“They beat us in the fourth quarter,” Salmen coach Kevin Anderson said. “District is coming up; hopefully we’re going to be district champions. We’re just looking at the big picture. I didn’t even talk to them much about the game.”
The two teams will play again Feb. 13 at Warren Easton.