At the beginning of the season the thought of an alliance between first-year coach Wayne Fontenot and the Eunice girls basketball may have seemed improbable.
Fontenot, a self-described baseball and softball coach, became a head basketball coach for the first time, inheriting a Eunice program beset by constant losing and winners of only five games the previous season.
“Through teaching myself and asking the advice of friends, I basically learned basketball,” Fontenot said. “It’s been fun taking a group of kids that haven’t been successful over the years.”
The marriage between rookie head coach and a perennially struggling program has been a perfect one, with Fontenot guiding Eunice (16-10) to an 11-win improvement and to what is believed to be the school’s first district championship.
The Bobcats finished league play Monday with a 52-35 victory over Church Point and will meet Ville Platte in a special playoff game at 6 p.m. Thursday at Northwest to determine the district’s top seed going into next week’s Class 3A state playoffs.
“I told the kids it’s still not finished,” Fontenot said. “We’re a part of a championship, but it’s not over. We want it all.”
Fontenot, who served as Lafayette High’s softball coach for 10 years, did have some basketball background to build on. He served as an assistant under Casey Delhomme and Cade Methvin when the Lions won the Class 5A state title in 2012 and were state runner-up in 2009.
“At the beginning of the season, I contacted them and told them I needed some help,” Fontenot said of the two former head coaches he worked with at Lafayette. “They’ve helped tremendously.”
Fontenot was looking to move back to his hometown and accepted a coaching job at his alma mater, where he was presented with the challenge of changing the fortunes of the girls basketball program.
That began with a grass-roots fundamental approach and old-school discipline, the latter cost Fontenot six players by the end of the second week of the season.
Clearly, he thought, the Bobcats had the makings of a winning team, he just had to convince his six-player rotation of that.
Freshman guard Stacie White tops Eunice in scoring at 15.9 points, while senior guards Dashae Vigers averages 13.6 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds and point guard Mia LeJeune is the team’s leader on the offensive and defensive ends.
Eunice stood 7-9 through 16 games, a stretch Fontenot called the turning point in the season when the Bobcats lost a 10-point halftime lead and eventually the game, 59-50, to Iowa.
“There were tears flowing after the game,” Fontenot said. “The kids knew what it felt like when they should have won, and that game hurt. It was a pivotal game, a beneficial loss.”
The opening of district play followed, and Eunice rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit for a 52-33 victory over Port Barre. The Bobcats followed with a 49-47 home win over Pine Prairie before allowing a close game at Ville Platte to turn into a 63-47 loss.
Eunice hasn’t lost since, winning its past seven games, including a fourth-quarter comeback for a 38-36 win over Ville Platte last week.
“With any program, winning’s a tradition and so is losing,” Fontenot said. “Everything I’ve coached, I’ve pushed trying to be on the top of the world. Whether we’re going to be I don’t know, but it’s something we’re going to strive for and that’s to be the best.”