SLIDELL — St. Michael the Archangel guard Journee Beard playfully shrugged Wednesday night as she glanced at Kalani Brown, the Salmen center she challenged for the game’s opening tip.
Brown, who is more than one foot taller, had no problem collecting it. And Salmen, the much taller, more physical and energetic team on this night, had no problem dominating this nondistrict girls basketball game between Class 4A state powers, winning 75-38.
Brown, the 6-foot-5 daughter of former NBA and Louisiana Tech player P.J. Brown, used her height advantage to score a game-high 18 points, a combination of shots in the post and offensive rebounds that turned into put backs. Teammate Megan Brown added 16, her own mix of layups and 3-pointers.
When they weren’t scoring, the third-ranked Spartans pressured St. Michael (24-4), ranked fourth, with a full-court press, keeping the visitors scoreless on its first five possessions.
“We started off playing good defense, running back and forth, hustling, doing a lot of fast breaks and getting a lot of open layups,” said Salmen point guard Christy Ducre, whose defense sparked Salmen’s fast start.
Salmen improved to 21-2. Its only losses have come against Ponchatoula (a game Kalani Brown missed) and top-ranked Warren Easton in the championship game of the National Prep Classic Tournament.
“There’s always something you can improve on, like blocking out, but I think overall, we played one of our best games as a team,” Megan Brown said.
As tough as it was to watch, the game marked an experience St. Michael coach Tami Reynolds-McClure would prefer her team face in the regular season than in the playoffs.
“We just did not come to play today,” Reynolds-McClure said. “We didn’t execute like we normally do. We were hesitant. They took us out of our game right from the beginning.”
St. Michael, the smaller but feisty team, never showcased its ability to score on the perimeter. Instead, its players struggled to recover from a horrid first quarter as Salmen’s dominance started immediately. After Kalani Brown won the opening tip — which Beard didn’t bother jumping for — Salmen found Brown immediately in the post where she scored. On Salmen’s second possession, she scored on an offensive put back.
Megan Brown followed with a layup and after Kalani Brown made one of two free throws, Macy Degruy threw an outlet pass to Ducre to start a fast break that ending with a layup.
“Our defense was there, our intensity was there, we never got too comfortable and laid back,” said Degruy, who scored 13 points for Salmen.
With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Beard scored St. Michael’s first points with a jump shot. By the end of the quarter, Salmen led 19-5. The lead grew to 37-13 at halftime.
“We’ve got to get back in the gym and work harder in practice,” said Taylor Morrison, who led St. Michael with 15 points. “It was a great learning experience to see where we are. It’s still early in the season.”
Teammate Karly Perkins added 10 points. Perkins and Morrison were St. Michael’s lone scorers in double digits.
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