Once again St. Thomas More basketball coach Danny Broussard tried his best to meld the best of the Acadiana area with some of the state’s top programs.

Broussard hopes the end result makes for another entertaining and competitive 32nd Annual Sunkist Shootout which gets underway at St. Thomas More on Friday.

“We always have teams that are well coached and talented,” Broussard said. “It’s a tough mix because we’ve had to turn teams away.

“We have six local schools and 10 from out of the area. We want to try and get the best teams in Louisiana.”

For the 11th time in the tournament’s existence, St. Thomas More is the defending champion and is part of a diverse 16-team field that will compete the next four days to win the prestigious championship.

Plays begins at 10 a.m. Friday with Ascension Episcopal (7-4) facing Northwood-Lena (12-2) in the first of eight first-round games.

Two-time tournament champion Ellender (11-4), which is riding a nine-game win streak, follows at 11:30 a.m. against Acadiana (8-4) with last year’s tournament runner-up, St. Augustine (8-3), facing Natchez, Miss. (7-0) in a marquee matchup at 4 p.m.

Host STM (8-2) opens with Chalmette (6-7) at 7 p.m. with an intriguing battle of Class 1A powerhouses set for 8:30 with Lafayette Christian Academy (9-2) squaring off against Grambling (5-5).

The game matches two former high school teammates with LCA’s Byron Starks meeting Grambling’s Antonio Hudson who played under Michael Lyons.

Consolation action begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday with the championship game scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.

The tournament, which has been home to seven players that went on to NBA careers, features 12 teams that advanced to postseason play last season.

STM and St. Augustine reached the semifinal round in the Class 4A and 5A playoffs. Tioga (14-2) lost to St. Augustine with LSU signee Aaron Epps in the quarterfinals, while the Purple Knights stopped Mandeville (7-4) in the regionals.

LCA and St. Thomas Aquinas (3-6) were quarterfinalists with Comeaux (5-5), Ellender, Grambling, Ascension Episcopal and Northwood all reaching the second round.

“We’d like to think we have the better teams in the state,” Broussard said. “Teams like coming here because they get to play teams they’ve never played before. And with the power points they know coming here, no matter who they play, the power points are going to be good.”

STM has already won the Northwood-Shreveport tournament and concluded an impressive 3-1 outing in the Country Day that included a memorable 50-47 victory over West Jefferson in four overtimes Tuesday.

Forward Peter Kishbaugh leads the Cougars in scoring with a 15.5-point average followed by guards Trevor Begue (15) and Devante’ Benjamin (10).

“When you go to a tournament with that many good teams, you’re going to find out how good you are, and we’ll find out this weekend how good we are,” Broussard said. “For us to go 3-1 at Country Day, I’m feeling pretty good about our team.

“Our tournament has been a great measuring stick for us. Around this time we seem to play our best basketball. We have a lot of things going for us since it’s our own tournament.

“We get fired up and we get great crowds and it makes for a great atmosphere.”