LAFAYETTE — The St. Thomas More girls basketball team hasn’t lost a game in a month, but coach Stephen Strojny was happy to get nine days off in advance of his team’s game against Iota on Tuesday.
That’s because as well as they’ve been playing, Strojny’s young group of Cougars (13-3) aren’t quite polished yet. In the days leading up to the game against Iota (8-7), Strojny’s group was still implementing offensive and defensive packages.
“You don’t like to lose your game legs, but we needed to practice more than anything, and we were able to get that done,” Strojny said.
STM’s squad is laced with youth, with three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup and another couple sophomores serving as the first reserves off the bench. That youth led to some bumps and bruises in the early going, but the group really found its stride in December.
The Cougars have won their past seven games, a stretch dating to a December 5 loss to Mount Carmel. Strojny said he expected some adversity during the early portions of the season, but he’s been surprised at how quickly the team has gelled together.
A big part of the Cougars’ success in December can be pinned to freshman guard Megan Abrams.
“Over the last seven games, she’s averaging close to 20 points per game against some of the top competition in the state,” Strojny said. “Which is a lot to ask of a freshman, but she’s handled it with a lot of maturity. She’s young age-wise, but on the court she’s played like a veteran.”
The same applies to sophomores Allyson Howard and Avery Breaux, who counter their young age with a wealth of experience. Both started as freshmen last year.
“Chronologically they’re young, but experience-wise, they’re nails,” Strojny said. “They’re tough kids.”
The key, though, has been junior forward Bailey Hemphill.
Hemphill serves as the team’s leader on the floor, Strojny said, and not necessarily because she’s older. Hemphill is also an two-time LSWA Class 4A softball MVP who committed to play for the University of Alabama as a freshman.
“She’s accustomed to being that player that everybody leans on,” Strojny said, “and with us and our basketball team, she’s embraced that role of being the floor leader.”
Strojny is pleased with how his team has reacted to its tough schedule so far, and expects his young team to be challenged again by an Iota team that has won five of its past seven.
“For many years in the Acadiana area, Iota was the benchmark for girls basketball,” Strojny said. “I think over the last year or two, they’ve started to reassert themselves as one of the premier girls basketball teams in the area.”