Time literally stood still while St. Thomas More’s William Vincent waited patiently for arguably the biggest moment of his high school basketball career.
Vincent, a 6-foot-7 senior center, had taken a pass from guard Jude Joseph and was fouled on his way up for a potential game-winning basket with No. 1 seed STM and No. 9 Plaquemine locked in a 52-all tie with 1.7 seconds left in overtime.
While the court was twice wiped for sweat in the lane area Vincent stared straight down at the floor, taking one encouraging hand slap from teammate Trevor Begue before the big moment had arrived.
Vincent raised his right hand above his head, settled the basketball and calmly made the go-ahead free throw. His second attempt hit off the back of the rim, was rebounded by Plaquemine with 1.3 seconds and led to a desperation heave from midcourt that was well short.
St. Thomas More had completed a stunning turn of events, rallying from an eight-point deficit in regulation to win 53-52 in overtime and advance to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 Tournament against No. 4 Bossier at 1 p.m. Thursday.
To those in attendance with an allegiance to STM, they wondered if Vincent possibly had an angel on his right shoulder or a cheerleader from above — his late mother Cindy Vincent.
“All she could do was pray for me,” Vincent said. “I recognized God in that moment, and I saw the help that she gave me.”
Cindy Vincent was lauded for her tireless efforts in organizing team meals to volunteering during STM’s Sunkist Shootout and compiling parent work schedules during basketball season.
Sixteen years after moving to Lafayette with her husband Kenny, who played on STM’s first basketball team in 1982, Cindy Vincent lost her battle with cancer Dec. 19, 2014.
She was 51.
Cindy’s memory lives on, not only through her only son, but through the school. STM devoted an entire page in its basketball program to Vincent and Andrea Brodhead, who died of cancer last summer, and dedicated its season to both for their support and contributions to the school.
“I miss her as much as the family because she did so much for our program,” STM coach Danny Broussard said. “It didn’t matter how large or small the task, you knew if you asked her to do something it was going to be done the right way.”
Before the start of STM’s game with Catholic-New Iberia in the Sunkist Shootout, the school honored both of the aforementioned families with a cross, which William and his father received at midcourt.
“We were telling each other not to cry,” William said. “I tried to remain emotionally stable, so I would have my mind right for the game. It was both happy and sad.”
A helping hand from his mother has meant the world in the development of Vincent’s career. His evolution has carried from junior varsity player as a sophomore to part-time starter and contributor a year ago to full-time starter and the team’s third-leading scorer (10.8) and top rebounder (6.8) in his final season.
“He’s not the most athletic kid you’re going to meet,” Broussard said. “But to see him progress, he just never gave in and kept battling. He’s a big part of this team.”
Broussard said it was commonplace to receive phone calls from Vincent’s father Kenny asking to open the school’s gym on weekends.
More than an hour later Broussard returned to lock the gym. It was there William took advantage of a tremendous resource in his basketball development — having two parents that played college basketball at Christian Brothers College in Memphis.
With Kenny defending against his son, Cindy, a back-up center during her playing days, was on the perimeter throwing the ball into William in the low post.
“She told me once I got good enough, all I needed was one move and then a counter move,” William said of his mother. “She taught me what to do in certain situations.”
The additional work on weekends typified Vincent’s enthusiasm to get better, which included playing AAU while going through STM’s summer workouts and summer league.
Moreover, Vincent also worked two to three times a week for two straight summers with current STM girls coach and former Cougars post player Stephen Strojny, who had Vincent conclude each 90-minute session by jumping up to tap the rim 100 times while wearing a 60-pound weighted vest.
“At first it didn’t go too well,” Strojny said. “He was struggling physically, cardiovasculary and mentally. But the beauty after four to five weeks he pushed through and learned how to play through some fatigue.”
Vincent, regarded as a capable shot blocker and valuable defensive asset around the rim, has displayed an upgraded offensive games this season. He’s led the team in scoring 10 times, was the second-leading scorer on 13 other occasions but more importantly, hit the game-winning free throw to reach the Top 28.
“It’s not every game, but there are a lot of games when I think about playing for my mom and playing for my team, which is also important,” Vincent said. “That’s what she would want. If I can’t play for my team, then how can we be a team? She may not be around, but she’s still trying to form me into a man.”