Basketball tournaments: St. Thomas More’s Sunkist Shootout, St. Martinville’s Holiday Shootout start Saturday _lowres

Advocate file photo by Buddy Delahoussaye- St. Thomas More's Devante Benjamin is fouled by Warren Easton's Victor Gonzales in a Class 4A playoff game last season.

St. Thomas More appears to peaking just in time to host one of the Acadiana area’s longest running holiday tournaments.

The Cougars will hold their 33rd Annual Sunkist Shootout — a 16-team, four-day event — starting Saturday.

Slidell (11-2) meets Episcopal School of Acadiana (8-5) at 10 a.m. in the first of eight opening-round games. The event runs through Tuesday with the championship game set for 7 p.m.

“I’m excited about our team,” STM coach Danny Broussard, who is 895-290 in his 32nd season at the school. “We’re a little further along than I thought we would be.”

The Sunkist Shootout isn’t the only headline event in the Acadiana area with St. Martinville hosting its 13-team Holiday Shootout Saturday through Tuesday, while Vermilion Catholic has a total of 21 teams in a boys/girls Yuletide Tournament, which starts Saturday, skips Sunday and resumes Monday-Wednesday.

“The tournament usually brings the best out of the teams,” St. Martinville coach Darrel Mitchell Sr. said. “It generally prepares them for district, and most of them do fairly well in the playoffs. We’re looking forward to another good year. We’ll have some great matchups.”

ST. THOMAS MORE/SUNKIST SHOOTOUT: St. Augustine’s the defending champion in the event, after defeating Catholic League rival Brother Martin in the final.

Both teams are back, along with a familiar group of teams that includes Tioga (9-4), North Caddo (10-2) and Grambling (11-3) from outside the region. Local teams include Class 1A state runner-up Lafayette Christian (9-1), Comeaux (9-4) and Carencro (11-3).

“It’s a juggling act between getting locals and out of town teams,” Broussard said. “I feel like it’s one of the more balanced fields we’ve ever had.”

There are several tantalizing first-round matchups that include Tioga-Comeaux at 11:30 a.m., Carencro-Brother Martin (5-6) at 5:30 p.m. and LCA-Ellender (12-3) at 8:30 p.m.

STM, which faces Catholic-New Iberia (5-5) at 7 p.m., enters having won seven of its past eight games. They defeated St. Augustine (77-67) and John Curtis (71-56), while falling to Karr (71-67) in Country Day’s tournament.

The Cougars have been bolstered by the return of senior point guard Trevor Begue, who along with three other players, were part of the school’s first trip to football’s Superdome Classic where they lost in the Division II state championship game.

Sophomore guard Jonathan Cisse (15.8) is the team’s leading scorer followed by forward Devante’ Benjamin (13), 6-foot-7 center William Vincent (12.5) and Begue (11).

The Cougars have also received contributions from football players such as forward Griffin Hebert, guard Jude Joseph and 6-6 center Nate Cox, Broussard said.

“With the guys we had that were doing pretty good, we added these four to the mix and we’ve got a pretty deep team,” Broussard said.

ST. MARTINVILLE HOLIDAY SHOOTOUT: There’s a distinct New Orleans flavor with three schools — McDonogh 35 (9-4), Karr (8-6) and Helen Cox (8-7) — all entered and receiving first-round byes.

Among local teams Breaux Bridge (9-3) has the best record and faces Patterson (5-2) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday

St. Martinville (8-7) split its first 14 games before gaining its biggest win to date — a 56-49 home victory over Washington-Marion on Tuesday.

The Tigers, who open tournament play with Hamilton Christian (3-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday, feature a balanced scoring attack led by guard Deantre James and forward Tyquan Marshall with 10 apiece, while guard Jayvion Mitchell and 6-6 forward Javante’ Walker average nine.

“We’ve been in games and couldn’t seem to close it,” Mitchell said. “That was a good win over Washington Marion. With the tournament coming maybe we can get it together.”