It took Catholic High-New Iberia’s basketball team nearly until the end of its predistrict season to get things straightened out.

The Panthers (9-9, 3-0) caught fire near the of end of that schedule and started a stretch of four wins in five games to gain the top spot in the District 6-2A standings heading into Tuesday’s 7:45 p.m. home game with Loreauville (16-7, 2-1).

“The issue with the early part of the season is we returned only one senior (Jeremy Touchet Jr.) with any significant minutes from last year,” Catholic-NI coach Josh Guilbeau said. “We had to get that chemistry going. We also had two transfers (Semaj Flugence and Charles Bernard) who sat out last year and hadn’t played in over a year. We had some ups and downs.”

Catholic managed to survive a five-game losing streak that bridged two tournaments at Runnels and St. Thomas More and a regular-season loss to Teurlings before experiencing its recent turnaround.

The Panthers’ 56-55 road win over David Thibodeaux served as the catalyst for a team that’s won a pair of district games by less than 10 points and another 64-48 over Delcambre.

“I made a few tweaks to the lineup, and by the time district came around, we’ve started to play decent,” Guilbeau said. “I’m hoping that continues.”

Touchet, a point guard, leads a balanced scoring effort, along with Bernard averaging 11 points apiece with Flugence averaging 10.

Loreauville enjoyed an 11-4 start to the season, reaching the finals of Vermilion Catholic’s Yuletide Classic, where it lost to Abbeville 67-44.

The Tigers also dropped regular-season games to Abbeville (55-43) and David Thibodeaux (64-47) before opening league play with a convincing win over Delcambre (74-29) and then stumbling against West St. Mary (48-47).

“We knew we didn’t execute at the end of the West St. Mary game,” Loreauville coach Paul Reed said. “I like the way the guys came out from the beginning of the game with Jeanerette (a 71-55 win) and played pretty hard.”

Junior shooting guard Jaden Jacob (16) and senior point guard Josh Simon (12) are Loreauville’s top scorers.

“The bottom line is that you’ve got to execute,” Reed said. “You’ve got to do the little things in games like this. You have to make layups, make free throws and block out. You also have to defend.”

VILLE PLATTE AT EUNICE: Eunice has already discovered the difficulty in working its way to the top of District 5-3A.

The Bobcats (17-8, 4-1) have won by 18 on the road and lost by 18 at home, but in between have been consistent enough to hold a one-game lead over three teams, including Tuesday’s home opponent, Ville Platte (9-9, 3-2).

“We could just as easily be in last place, but we’ve got some fortuitous bounces along the way,” Eunice coach Chad Andrepont said. “We’ve been fortunate to be at the top by ourselves. It can change very quickly.”

The 18-point home loss to Northwest (9-8, 3-2), coupled with three straight come-from-behind wins, have provided Eunice with lessons that have served it well going into the start of the second round of play.

Guard Kevin Williams continues to lead the team with a 16-point average, while Jude Cormier and Deshawn Vigers have both shined during district competition.

“We’ve got a team that’s very resilient, we don’t usually give up,” Andrepont said. “I guess they learned from the Northwest game because that was uncharacteristic of us. In a way it helped to remind them of who we are and who want to be.”