Two months ago, Teurlings Catholic’s boys basketball went through a stretch of 17 consecutive road games in preparation for a week like this.
Such an arduous task, which included three straight weekend tournaments at Episcopal-Baton Rouge, E.D. White and Jena, required the Rebels to stay overnight in hotels with the incentive of a payoff at the end of the season.
Twenty-one games later, Teurlings (21-7, 6-1) has arrived at such a juncture, hosting St. Martinville (20-7, 7-1) at approximately 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with the District 5-4A lead hanging in the balance.
The Rebels will close out the week at St. Thomas More (17-8, 6-2) — a team they tripped up 36-35 for only the second time in school history.
“We knew we had a team that could make a run in the playoffs,” said 10th-year TCHS coach Jake Duiett, a 1998 graduate of the school. “We purposely scheduled the way we did. Not a lot of people came with us, so there was a lot of bonding. They’re older, they’ve been weathered and beaten up. We’ve positioned ourselves well, and here we are with a chance to win it.”
The impetus for such a demanding schedule was born out of a 71-51 first-round Class 4A state playoff defeat at Washington-Marion last season. That marked the second straight early exit for Teurlings, which has not advanced past the opening round since a Top 28 appearance in Class 3A in 2005.
“We felt the more gyms we could see, the more cities we could be in and the more officiating associations we could see, we would be better prepared for where we wanted to be at the end of the year,” Duiett said. “That was to make a run deep into the playoffs.”
The return of all five of his starters made Duiett’s job a little more palpable, having a trio of two-year starters in Ike Hidalgo, Grant LaGrange and Sage LeBlanc to rely on, along with 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior center Cole Kelley and senior guard Ty Labrie.
Kelley has emerged as a tower of strength, leading the Rebels with 23.2 points and 10 rebounds, with the 6-5 Hidalgo the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 10.1.
LaGrange has nearly doubled his 7-point average in district play. Labrie’is averaging 7.0 points and is regarded as the team’s best defender and LeBlanc scores 6.1 points and dishes out 5.0 assists.
“Everything we do goes through Cole,” Duiett said. “But there’s been four or five nights in district where we’ve put four guys in double figures. When we do that, we’ve been successful. That’s what we’re trying to do and stay as balanced as possible.”
One of the biggest areas that’s been a key to Teurlings’ success has been its ability to win tight games.
A year after losing 12 games by six points or fewer, the Rebels have reveled in games decided by 10 points or less with a 14-5 record, including the one-point win over STM.
TCHS showed its mettle in a recent win over Breaux Bridge, surrendering a 22-point lead, falling behind by two in the last two minutes of play before responding for a 67-58 victory.
The Rebels get the opportunity to atone for one such defeat after falling behind by 14 points at halftime to St. Martinville before cutting that deficit to three in the final minutes of play only to drop a 52-46 decision.
“The kids know what’s ahead this week; they know what’s at stake the next two weeks,” Duiett said. “They relish the opportunity of being the first (TCHS) team in 4A to bring home a district title and win that first playoff game. They know what they want. It’s about going out and doing it.”