Plaquemine defeats St. Thomas More, clears playoff hurdle _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard on the Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic: “'This tournament’s unbelievable. It’s the best field for a tournament I’ve seen. I don’t think I’ve been to a tournament where the level’s been like this.'

St. Thomas More’s Danny Broussard realizes how steep the climb up the basketball mountain will be to realize his latest coaching milestone.

But in much the same fighting spirit he’s taught his players to exhibit during the past 33 years, Broussard’s not backing down from the challenge at hand.

“We’ve got to play good,” Broussard said. “The kids are aware of it, and I’ve challenged them to compete and do well.”

There’s no denying the level of the competition that awaits St. Thomas More (16-4) when the Cougars open play Wednesday in the Sixth Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic against Lafayette Christian Academy (12-1) at 6 p.m. at the Alario Center.

Depending on the outcome of its first-round game STM would play Riverside Academy or West Jefferson in either a winners or losers bracket game Thursday with either a winners bracket clash or consolation game to follow Friday.

“This tournament’s unbelievable,” Broussard said. “It’s the best field for a tournament I’ve seen. I don’t think I’ve been to a tournament where the level’s been like this.”

Broussard’s also positioned to possibly reach the latest coaching achievement in his 33rd-year at St. Thomas More — his 900th career victory.

A former Class C All-State point guard at Meaux High in Vermilion Parish, Broussard brings in a career mark of 898-292 into the tournament that features a field of reigning state champions that includes Scotlandville (Class 5A), Landry-Walker (4A), University High (3A) and Riverside (2A).

Broussard reached the 800-win plateau just over three years ago in the Northwood tournament in Shreveport.

Joel Hawkins of Southern Lab (1,071) and Leslie Gaudet (1,026) of Pine Prairie rank 1-2 among the state’s winningest coaches.

Broussard could join the state’s active leaders in victories — Rosepine’s Danny Fletcher (997) and Peabody’s Charles Smith (914) — in the 900-win club with two wins this week.

“It’s a tribute to all of the players; it’s not about me,” Broussard said. “It’s about the guys who have busted their tail to play for our school and have given 100 percent. The biggest compliment I’ve gotten as a coach is that our kids play hard. That’s all you can ask.”

STM was on a collision course to meet LCA in the final of the Sunkist Shootout before running into a talented North Caddo team that handed the Cougars a 64-48 semifinal defeat.

While the Knights prevailed 66-53 in the championship game, the Cougars edged Carencro 59-58 in the third-place game.

“The Carencro game was huge for us,” Broussard said. “I was worried about how we were going to respond after the loss to North Caddo. It was a great third-place game. We both played pretty tough, and I was proud of our kids for pulling it out.”

Broussard said his team faced LCA for the first time in last season’s third-place game of the Sunkist Shootout with the Knights overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to emerge victorious.

“LCA’s picked to win the whole thing in 1A,” Broussard said. “They’re one of the best teams in any classification. We’re from the same city. I think both teams will be up for this one. We’re excited about being in it, and we’re going to battle in the games we’re in.”