COUGARS CONSISTENT WINNERS
It's been 31 years and counting.
For Danny Broussard, the wait was worth it.
It took nearly three decades but Broussard and his St. Thomas More Cougars are reigning state champions again.
Coming off of a 4A state championship with a 51-43 victory over Northside in Monroe, St. Thomas More is firmly established as a Louisiana basketball power after the Cougars had reached the quarterfinals in 2012. Prior to last season, the Cougars last won a state title in 1986 (3A). STM has reached eight final fours and the Top 28 Tournament in his 30 years on the job at the Lafayette school.
"It had been a long time coming," Broussard said. "We are pretty excited about having been a consistent program but to win it all again after 27 years was a thrill, a blessing."
Broussard brings his 2013-2014 Cougars to the 4th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic January 2-4 at the Alario Center in Westwego.
While the euphoria of last year's championship run remains, the reality of losing several key players from the title run has set in. Still, the Cougars remain formidable.
"Our team is exceeding my expectations, at this point," Broussard said. "We are a little undersized. Our defense has carried us and we have distributed the ball well and scored well from the perimeter."
Senior guard Trey Touchet (6'2, 185) leads the way for St. Thomas More. Senior forward Orynn Veillon (6'3, 180) returns as well after serving as the sixth man a year ago.
"I thought he was one of the best, if not the best sixth man in the state last year," Broussard said. "Touchet was huge for us last year and he is playing outstanding basketball this season. We lost two of the best defenders we have ever had from last year's team in Michael Hicks and Charlie Padgett. We are a step slower on defense this year."
In addition, the Cougars lost Ryan Randle and Matt Roberts to graduation from their championship squad.
A couple of sophomores are giving the Cougars good minutes this season. Trevor Begue (5'9,155) has played solid after returning from a football injury. Demonte Benjamin has played well as well. Senior point guard Andy Stoma (5'10, 155) has done a solid job while senior shooting guard Nick Anthony (5'11, 160) has shot the ball extremely well after not playing much a year ago.
"The key is when the kids get their chance and pay their dues, they take advantage of the opportunity given to play minutes," Broussard said. "They are stepping up for us."
After losing to a very good Madison Prep team to start the season, St. Thomas More ripped off six straight wins before losing to a Pennsylvania team in a tournament at Orlando, FL.
"Our two losses early were to quality opponents and there is no doubt that those games will prepare us for the playoffs," Broussard. "Our best win is against Bossier, always a very good team."
While Broussard is thrilled to be taking his team to New Orleans for the New Year, he cannot help but think about what could have been.
"I wish we had played in the Sugar Bowl Tournament a year ago with the team we had," Broussard said. "Ed (Daniels) invited us last year but we already had a commitment. We agreed that we would do it this year. We know we will face the best of Louisiana and some good invaders as well. These are the kind of tournaments you like to challenge yourself with. We may be in over our heads but we will show up and play hard, giving it our best."
Given Broussard's track record, I would not sell him short.