When the Cecilia boys basketball team lost three of its first four games, no one expected the Bulldogs to make a dramatic turnaround.
With a 74-64 win over Westgate on Friday, however, the Bulldogs boosted their record to 12-5 and earned a berth in the semifinals of the St. Martinville Holiday Shootout, where they will challenge an 11-1 New Iberia team late Saturday night.
"Last year, we were 8-20, so this is a hell of a lot better," said Cecilia coach Marty Davis, who lost three senior starters from that team. "Recently, in the tournaments, we've been picking up steam and momentum and getting better as we go along.
"This group buys into what we tell them. They work hard, and the jelling with the rotation is starting to pay off now."
Joe Bob Wiltz poured in 20 points versus Westgate.
"Joe Bob is a 6-foot-4 sophomore," Davis said. "We started off the season by playing St. Martinville over here. They're a very good team.
"We followed that with another good opponent in Northside. Joe Bob had the flu and missed that game, which we lost 62-58."
Guard Avontez Ledet, a 6-foot-3 junior, also scored 20 against Westgate, while 6-foot-3 senior forward Ethan Howard added 12.
"The anchors of the team are Ethan Howard at the strong forward — we rely on him heavily — and also our point guard, Avontez Ledet," Davis said.
"Those two hardly come out of the game. The rest, we rotate in and out with an eight or nine-man rotation."
Cecilia has six players in the rotation that measure 6-3 to 6-4.
"Our strength is our size, and we try to utilize that by playing zone defenses," Davis said. "Our weakness is a lack of guards. That's why I was worried about this game against Westgate because they're a guard-oriented team. They pressure you the whole way.
"Ledet is our best guard. He's also our best shooter. He averages about 19 points per game, followed by Joe Bob with 13 and Ethan Howard."
Howard exploded for eight points in the first quarter versus. Westgate had two more early layups nullified by charging fouls.
"Ethan had been averaging 11 or 12 points per game, but he just had two outstanding games in this tournament," Davis said. "With the way Westgate traps you full-court, we wanted to get the ball in the middle of the trap.
"That's where Ethan Howard is. He's a tight end in football who also flanked out some at wide receiver. He's a skilled athlete, so when he got the ball, his job was to attack the defense and create plays. I thought he did a great job."
Forward Korreon Babineaux scored eight points in the second half against Westgate (5-6).
"Babineaux didn't begin the season as a starter," Davis said of the 6-foot-3 junior. "But after becoming a very important player coming off the bench, he's starting to score and has now cracked the starting rotation."
Cecilia led by many as 12 points in the second quarter before Westgate closed within one point on a 3-pointer by Derryon Sam in the fourth.
Ledet quickly answered, however, with his fourth 3-pointer to extend the lead to 64-60.