The significance of the Cecilia girls basketball team’s 75-30 victory over Westgate on Tuesday night wasn’t lost on the Bulldogs.
Not only did it improve Cecilia’s overall record to 14-6, but more importantly kept them atop the District 5-4A standings at 4-0 after the first round of play.
Moreover, the 45-point victory represented Cecilia’s second biggest margin of victory this season — essentially from a team made up of the same players that went 2-21, was second-to-last in district and was on the receiving end of such blowouts a year ago.
Cecilia’s transformation from near-worst to first has been a combination of two standout players enjoying breakout seasons, surrounded by role players filling in where needed.
“They’ve shown more dedication and drive,” Cecilia’s second-year coach Jasmine Narcisse said. “They’ve also played hard.”
The 180-degree turn didn’t open with a promising start. Cecilia lost four of its first five games, including three double-figure defeats.
Cecilia even its record at 4-4 before running into a wall on Dec. 10 at Northside, falling 70-33, which turned out to be the team’s worst loss of the season.
Instead of reverting back to the team of old, the Bulldogs did some soul-searching and decided to make something of their season and have nearly been perfect since.
“After last year and losing games like that by big deficits, it hurt our self-confidence and self-esteem,” Narcisse said. “I told them they had to come back and play ball.”
The loss to Northside was in a tournament at Teurlings Catholic, which Cecilia responded with two wins to walk away with the event’s consolation championship.
That was the beginning of what’s evolved into an 11-game stretch in which Cecilia’s won 10 times, only falling 52-40 against former district nemesis Teurlings.
Narcisse also attributed her team’s reversal of fortunes to the health of senior point guard Carmen Degeyter and court maturity of sophomore guard-forward Nia Fontenette.
Fontenette, who started as a freshman, leads Cecilia with averages of 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Degeyter has returned to full strength after missing the vast majority of last season because of a knee injury suffered during volleyball season. She’s averaging 15 points, a team-high 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists.
“I’ve told Nia and Carmen to be leaders on the court,” Narcisse said. “They need to work together because the other girls look up to them.”
Narcisse said the remainder of starting group can come from either senior Des’ree Johnson, sophomore India Guidry, along with juniors Macey Boyd and Toryiana Hawkins.
Boyd played a pivotal role in helping Cecilia open District 5-4A play with 12 points in a 47-46 road victory over Breaux Bridge, their St. Martin Parish rivals.
The Bulldogs held a 32-19 halftime lead and maintained a double-digit lead until the three-minute mark of the game when turnovers, missed shots and a late charge from Breaux Bridge nearly spoiled their effort.
Cecilia’s one-point victory has been a catalyst in its perfect start to district, which begins second-round play on Friday when the Bulldogs host Breaux Bridge.
“I’ve told them we’re back to 0-0 in district,” Narcisse said. “I just want them to take it one game at a time. The opponent changes, but the game never does. Just continue to play the game no matter who you play.”