Longtime St. Martinville basketball coach Darrel Mitchell doesn’t get caught up in the daily clutter of the District 5-4A race.

The one constant in a 10-game, 1½–month long grind is that his Tigers must show up and play well every game.

“I take it a game at a time and don’t worry about what other people are doing,” Mitchell said. “I know we have to play them, and we have to beat them. You control your own destiny.”

That’s what 31 years of coaching will do, shape a single-minded approach that’s served Mitchell well since taking over St. Martinville’s program in 1984.

Mitchell’s also rebounded from his greatest setback after suffering a stroke in his right leg and later underdoing double bypass surgery last summer, effectively taking him off the sideline for one season.

Not only has Mitchell returned with a vigor but so has St. Martinville (19-7, 6-1), which finds itself in a three-way tie for the District 5-4A lead going into Friday’s league showdown at St. Thomas More (18-7, 6-1).

Tri-leader Teurlings Catholic (21-7, 6-1), is idle Friday and hosts St. Martinville next Tuesday.

“We were kind of expecting to have this kind of season,” Mitchell said. “It should have been that way last year, but I was ill and didn’t really coach the team.

“I was advised to take it easy. There’s no way to coach and take it easy.”

Mitchell said he’s back to full strength after the harrowing incident, giving him a greater appreciation for life and his love for coaching.

“I just thank the Lord that I’m blessed to be here and just to keep going,” he said. “My health is pretty good. The Lord took care of me where I could come back and do what I love doing. I’ve been doing it all of my life, and I’m going to take advantage of it and do what I do.”

The return of four senior provided St. Martinville with a sturdy foundation in which to build a winner this season.

Senior Bradley Savoy leads a balanced scoring effort with 12 points per game, Drapper Anthony adds 11 and 6-foot-7 junior center Javante Walker 10.6.

Seniors Keithen Bonhomme and Andre Doucet round out the starting lineup.

The Tigers went 11-6 through the nondistrict part of their schedule, including a 2-2 showing with losses to Karr and Lafayette.

“There’s been ups and downs, but that’s with everything you do,” Mitchell said. “We played some great teams in our tournament. There were some games we felt we should have won but let it slip by. That’s the breaks.”

Since the calendar flipped to a new year St. Martinville, which is riding a six-game win streak, has been on a torrid streak with eight wins in its past nine games.

The Tigers, now up to No. 10 in the latest unofficial power rating, look to avenge the lone loss in that stretch against STM, which handed them a 68-57 setback on Jan. 13.

“We really had a bad shooting night, and that happens,” Mitchell said. “We fell behind early and just couldn’t make any shots and that made the difference in the game. If we don’t shoot well, we don’t win.”

St. Mitchell began its second go-round through the district with a 56-48 home win over Cecilia last Friday but stepped out of league play Tuesday to register an impressive 57-54 road victory over District 4-4A leader Beau Chene,.

“It’s been great being back and the kids are playing well right now,” Mitchell said. “This is what I’ve been doing all of my life. The kids are responding not as well as you would always like all the time, but we’ve been doing well lately.

“We’ve gotten on a little roll, and I hope it continues.”