When St. Thomas More girls basketball coach Stephen Strojny looked at his predistrict schedule, the thought of potentially being undefeated at this point didn’t cross his mind.
Three games into the season, the Lady Cougars suffered a 47-45 defeat at reigning Class 4A state champion Salmen, a team that drained 11 3-pointers in the victory.
However, STM (7-1) has responded with five consecutive wins against a challenging schedule that features a road test Tuesday against Class 1A’s budding Lafayette Christian Academy (5-1) at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re preparing for them the same way as we do when we face any of the top teams in the state,” Strojny said. “Our girls are excited to play them. We’re looking forward to a good game.”
STM opened with a 58-52 win over Class 5A Scotlandville, followed by a 40-32 home win over New Iberia, last year’s Class 5A runner-up.
The Lady Cougars have subsequently registered impressive wins over former district opponent Breaux Bridge (91-30) and Class 4A state quarterfinalist Rayne (27-25), the team that knocked them out of the state playoffs last season in the regional round.
“Historically, we’ve always played the best teams in the state,” said Strojny, whose team closed out a three-game stretch with Breaux Bridge and Rayne with a 46-33 win over Iota. “It’s our philosophy to do that so when the playoffs come around, we’re battle tested. We’ve had the motto to play anyone, any time, anywhere, regardless of record or classification. Our schedule this year is a testament to that.”
Junior guard Megan Abrams (13 points) and senior forward Bailey Hemphill (8 points, 11 rebounds) lead a team that routinely rotates 8-to-11 players per game and can also rely on scoring from Carly Sloane, Grace Barrilleaux and Allyson Howard.
STM’s rugged early stretch includes a home game Friday at 6:30 against Class 4A St. Michael the Archangel of Baton Rouge.
LCA returns all of its starters from last year’s team that finished 19-10 and won the school’s first playoff game before falling to Arcadia in the second round.
The Lady Knights, like the Lady Cougars, have experienced a positive start to the season, winning four of five games.
“I knew they were one of the better teams in the state, and I wanted to get a chance to show where we were,” LCA coach Errol Rogers said. “We’re not close to where we want to be yet, but playing STM at this time of the year will let me know where we are and what we need to work on as we get into district.”
Three of LCA’s first four wins came over Class 4A schools, including Washington-Marion (29-24), Cecilia (65-48) and Teurlings Catholic (42-29) before losing to Class 5A Carencro (42-22).
LCA is set for tournament action at Teurlings later this week, opening with Notre Dame, and then travels next week to participate in the Walker tournament.
Guard Ajia Robinson (21 points) represents the lone senior among LCA’s returning starters. The Lady Knights also feature three to four juniors with the remainder of the roster either freshmen or sophomores.
Junior Regan Lantier averages 7-to-8 points and sophomore Cassidy Valentine scored 20 in last week’s 51-21 win over David Thibodaux.
“I’m hoping we can play at their level,” Rogers said of STM, noting its 90-point output versus Breaux Bridge. “We’re still relatively young, but we’re starting to come around slowly but surely.”