The calm on the court exploded into an all-out celebration by the St. Edmund boys basketball team, filled with joy and excitement.
And for good reason.
For the first time in 19 games the Blue Jays tasted victory, pushing aside a season’s worth of frustration to enjoy their own winning lottery ticket — a 53-25 victory Friday over False River in the start of District 5-1A play.
“It’s my first season as varsity coach, so they were congratulating me on my first win,” St. Edmund coach David Miller said. “They were celebrating, but they were more happy for me. I appreciated it, but I told them this was for them.”
St. Edmund endured several close calls in a season that avalanched into a 0-18 start.
The Blue Jays lost their season opener 53-42 to Sacred Heart-Ville Platte, fell 47-36 to fellow 5-1A member Basile followed by a 48-46 defeat to Gueydan in overtime — a game they led for the majority of the time.
“We’ve had some tight games,” Miller said. “We’ve struggled at times, but we’ve also played a pretty tough schedule.”
Three days before experiencing a season’s high, the Blue Jays had to deal with rock bottom in a 64-point loss (101-37) against Class 2A Kinder.
“I told them the season was brand new with the start of district,” Miller said. “We were 0-0 just like everybody else.”
However, even Miller wondered how his team would respond to such a lopsided defeat.
“I was worried about what kind of blow our confidence would take,” he said. “They responded well in practice, and I kept preaching to never give up. I told them I would coach them from the tipoff to the buzzer and teach them every second of the game. I asked them not to give up on me. I wasn’t going to give up on them.”
St. Edmund answered with its game of the season.
The Blue Jays led from the outset, gained control midway through and left no doubt.
Senior guard John Ross Guillory had a game-high 22 points and fellow senior Cullen Brown, a 6-foot-4 forward, had 20 points, double-digit rebounds and five blocked shots.
“Our kids played well,” Miller said. “We also cut down on our turnovers, which had been plaguing us. John Ross said after the game we played a smart game, and he was right.”
Miller inherited a team with three senior starters — the other being 6-4 center Dylan Bieber — along with junior Austin Gradney.
Miller said he starts an eighth-grader at point guard and relies solely on a six-man rotation.
A year ago Miller, a former basketball player at Class B Vidrine High and whose children attend St. Edmund, was serving as the volunteer coach for school’s fifth-grade boys and seventh-grade girls teams.
When it came to taking over the Blue Jays varsity program, Miller jumped at the chance.
“I knew we’d have our trials, but we do our best to keep working,” he said. “It’s a process. We’ve started from scratch with the fundamentals. I told a teacher at school I was so glad the kids got to experience a win. It feels so good for the program, for everybody.”