By the end of Friday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal victory over Plaquemine, St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard had sweat through his suit and his voice was barely above audible.
Watching his team rally from an eight-point deficit in regulation to win 53-52 in overtime at Plaquemine had such an effect on Broussard, who celebrated with his players the school’s 11th trip to the state tournament.
Turns out No. 1 St. Thomas More (33-7) may be in for more of the same from a defensive-minded and athletic No. 4 Bossier (25-10) team that provides the opposition in Thursday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 Tournament.
Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“They’re a grind-it-out, play defense, possession by possession team,” Broussard said. “In a lot of ways they’re like Plaquemine, and that game may have done us worlds of good playing them back-to-back.”
STM returns to the Top 28 for the first time since 2014 and is in search of the program’s third state championship with titles in 1986 and 2013.
Bossier is back at this juncture after losing to Rayville in last year’s Class 3A state regionals. Before that, the Bearkats had a run of six consecutive Top 28 appearances, winning the Class 4A crown in 2011 over Peabody.
“The beauty of this game is that it’s kind of like the last one with a couple of minor adjustments,” Broussard said. “We’re doing a lot of the same things we did to prepare for Plaquemine, although this team’s a little better. They’re like us in that they’re real balanced with no superstars and have good depth.”
Bossier captured the District 1-4A championship with a 9-1 record. The Bearkats have won their last five games and 12 of their last 13, advancing to the Top 28 in similar fashion to the Cougars.
The Bearkats drove the length of the court with junior Chris Davenport hitting a layup at the buzzer for a 63-61 win over Ellender.
Senior guard Larry Robinson is Bossier’s lone double-digit scorer at 13.7 points, but the balanced Bearkats feature an interior game led by Davenport (6.8 points), a 6-foot-6 junior, and Antonio Davis (6.9), a 6-4 junior.
“Offensively, they’re pretty patient,” Broussard said. “They don’t always take the first open look they get. They try to get better looks. I’m impressed with their inside game as well. They’re pretty solid, quick and athletic and go strong to the boards.”
STM, the District 4-4A champion, is riding a nine-game win streak, capped by a furious 8-0 run in the final 65 seconds of regulation to force overtime against Plaquemine.
Senior center William Vincent provided the eventual margin of victory with a free throw with 1.7 seconds left in overtime.
Guards Devante’ Benjamin and Jonathan Cisse pace the Cougars offensively at 12.7 and 11.5 points, respectively, with Vincent adding 10.8 points and guard Trevor Begue at 8.6.
“We played them three times in the last five years, so I’m familiar with their system,” Broussard said. “They rest their hat on defense. It’s one of the best defensive teams we’ll see this year. We’ve got our work cut out for us and we’re going to have to do a good job.”