Gary Burrell waited until the end of the game before allowing his emotions to show.
It took until the final horn to cap Loreauville’s 54-47 victory Thursday over Catholic-New Iberia — which Burrell watched intently — before West St. Mary’s second-year basketball coach rejoiced.
“I wanted to see those zeroes on the clock before I would celebrate,” Burrell said. “It was a good feeling.”
West St. Mary, which opened district with a 2-2 record, clinched the outright District 6-2A victory by virtue of Loreauville’s seven-point victory over Catholic-New Iberia.
West St. Mary (12-10) took care of its end of the bargain two nights before, defeating Jeanerette 72-59 in a game the Wolfpack trailed by 11 points in the first quarter.
With a 6-2 league mark, West St. Mary was prepared for the prospect of a special playoff game with Catholic-NI, which entered its regular-season finale with a 5-2 mark after leading the league through the first round of play.
A year after finishing in a tie for third in a Class 3A district and out of the state playoffs, the Wolfpack played themselves into postseason play with four straight victories.
“The biggest district game was at Loreauville,” Burrell said of a 48-47 road win Jan. 26. “We felt we had a chance to turn things around with three home games in the second round, but we had to take care of the business. We also had to have a little luck. It’s unbelievable, but it happened.”
West St. Mary enjoyed anything but a classic start to the season, losing five of its first six games and taking a 5-8 record into the start of district play.
During that stretch, the Wolfpack was beset by an inability to finish games, losing five times by less than 10 points. That continued into district, where they split the first four games, three of which were decided by six, one and two points.
“Some of the close games we were in that we didn’t win, we were confident,” said Burrell, who credited nonfaculty assistant Harry Coleman for his contributions to the team’s success. “The guys kept believing that things were going to get better.”
There was one key addition that went a long way in helping to solidify West St. Mary’s status as a district-title contender.
The Wolfpack welcomed 6-foot-4 center Jason Pierre to the lineup for the start of district play, but it didn’t take him long to make an impact on a team that meshed well down the stretch.
Pierre has gone on to lead the team with a 15-point average. Guard Dunante Charles averages 12 points per game, power forward Christian Barard 10 and guard Chris Snowden 9.
“When he came, I think that’s when our team found an identity,” Burrell said of Pierre.
From that point West St. Mary took flight, soundly defeating Catholic-NI (54-24), Delcambre (84-49), Loreauville (59-26) and Jeanerette (72-59) to nail down the district title and punch their ticket to the postseason as a potential Nos. 24/25 seed that would open on the road.
“To get to the point where we are now and go to the postseason, I think it doesn’t matter who we play,” said Burrell, a former Nicholls State guard. “We’re glad to make it to the playoffs and see what happens. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”