Wins and championships will always be of paramount importance to Midland’s proud basketball program.
But first-year coach William Stanley said there’s a deeper meaning that often goes unnoticed in defining the team’s true measure of success.
“It’s about building character,” Stanley said. “Our system is built where we’re not just focused on basketball skills. We’re trying to teach them to become young men; be a productive citizen. It goes with working hard. We demand a lot from them.”
Since claiming the school’s first Class B state championship 37 years a year ago Midland has encountered several changes to this year’s team – namely at the top.
That began with longtime program fixture as a player and coach Todd Briley, who coached the Rebels for the past 14 years, stepping down as coach at the end of last season’s state championship run to becoming the school’s principal.
Stanley, who joined Briley’s staff in 2008, earned his first head coaching assignment as the successor to the outgoing coach and has kept Midland’s good fortunes rolling right along.
The Rebels (21-5) have won eight straight games and earned a share of the District 7-B title with a 6-0 record with three games to play — all of which will be on the road.
“The way it worked out was kind of magical with him going out with a bang,” Stanley said. “I didn’t know they were going to offer me the job, but I thank them every day that they did.”
Given Briley’s imprint on the program, Stanley said it would have been foolish to alter anything associated with the way team practices or its style of play.
“I don’t try to fix things that are not broken,” he said. “It worked for 14 years for Todd, and it’s kind of instilled in the kids. I started with them in the eighth grade with the same rules, discipline and accountability. It’s continued into their high school years. I’ve taken what he’s done and haven’t tweaked it much.”
That starts in practice where players are charted daily for their effort, focus and attention to detail such as limiting their turnovers to not getting beat on defense.
“They get marks for trying to get better and making their teammates better,” Stanley said. “We place a lot of demands on the kids. There’s a lot of discipline involved in practice.”
With the return of senior starters Devin Gautreaux and Randy Primeaux, Midland had the building blocks in place for another fruitful season.
Gautreaux, a 5-foot-9 guard, leads an offense that generates just over 70 points per outing with a 16.7 scoring average and is complimented by senior Traven Guidry, last year’s sixth man, at 12.8 points.
Primeaux, who scored a game-high 22 points in Midland’s 61-51 title game over Fairview, averages 10.7 points with junior point guard Dylan Boudreaux (8.0 points, 4.7 assists) and senior forward Taatum Rubin (7.0 rebounds) rounding out the starting five.
After opening the season 3-3, losing 84-69 in a rematch with Fairview, Midland’s only lost twice since Nov. 29 with setbacks to Class 2A Rosepine (73-68) and Class 5A Acadiana (44-38), the latter coming in the final of the Rebels tournament.
Moreover, Midland avenged an early-season, four-point loss to district foe Bell City with a sweep in district play on its way to winning 15 of its past 16 games with the start of postseason play less than a month away.
“To me the key to having a successful season is the lessons they’ve learned and whether they get out what they put into it,” Stanley said. “Did they ultimately become a better person for this experience? That’s what we’ve always worked for.”