St. Thomas More's girls basketball team takes pride in its defense.
Friday at Teurlings Catholic, STM held the Rebels without a field goal in the second quarter in a 56-21 win in District 5-4A action.
"I thought we played well defensively," STM coach Stephen Strojny said. "That's what we've been hanging our hat on lately. Guarding people.
"With the exception of one or two games, we've been able to hold people under 50 points all season."
The Cougars (17-3, 3-0) didn't have a stellar night shooting the ball. At the 3:02 mark of the first quarter, the score was tied 5-5.
"We've been scoring 60 to 70 points a game," Strojny said. "You can't rely 100% on offense. As you can see tonight, we didn't shoot the ball great. Our starters didn't. We had kids come off the bench that did."
Izzy Carter came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers for STM, which is ranked third in the LHSAA's Division II power rankings.
"Sophie Perkins had been out for 2½ weeks with an injury," Strojny said. "She just came back. Izzy has really stepped up and filled those minutes for her. I think when Izzy looks in the mirror, she thinks she's 6-foot-4.
"She's 5-foot-0 in shoes, but she plays like she's big and does everything right. I wish people could see what she does after practice and in the offseason. She works so hard. I'm glad she's experiencing success. I know her teammates are happy for her, too."
In the pivotal second quarter, the Cougars outscored Teurlings 13-2 with the hosts making two free throws.
"Defensively, I was really excited," Strojny said. "We have depth so I'm able to bring in 9, 10, 11 kids who can play, that can really guard. That's really been our emphasis this year.
"If you're going to win state, you have to guard somebody in man-to-man, not zone. We've pretty much been exclusive man-to-man, full-court with our defense all season. It's nothing real complicated, and it's helped us."
Strojny said his senior-laden squad has been playing together for a long time.
"We have seven seniors," he said. "Three of them — Olivia Guidry, Claire Hader and Emily LeBlanc — have been together since kindergarten at St. Pius.
"Madison Prejean and Angelle Doucet have been together since kindergarten at Fatima."
Lily Juneau and Anna Saccaro round out the group of seven seniors.
"They're all very close-knit and tight," Strojny said. "You know, you're only as good as your senior leaders, and we have a bunch of them."
Sophomore post AC Froelich led all scorers with 18 points.
"She was wound up about this game," Strojny said. "She's a laid-back kid, but she was juiced up. I think she wanted to play Teurlings really bad. I know she has family that comes here to Teurlings. You know how good AC is in volleyball, and they have a big rivalry."
Froelich scored several second-chance buckets after she grabbed offensive rebounds.
"She's a difference-maker, plain and simple," Strojny said. "She makes things tough on opponents in the lane because we can overplay the passing lanes and still have a 6-footer in there. We're blessed to have her."
Hader (12 points) and Carter (nine) scored all of their points on 3-pointers.
"Our primary scorers would probably be Olivia, Claire and Sophie," Strojny said. "But over the last couple of weeks, AC has been averaging 18 points per game.
"Claire, Olivia, Sophie and Izzy are so unselfish. Any one of them can score 20 points on any given night. We've had six different players score 20 points."
One of those players is Doucet.
"Angelle is a pass-first point guard," Strojny said. "She's coming down the court, getting rid of the ball and not getting it back.
"For some kids, that's an issue because they want to score. She gets her buckets when she can, but she's not looking to score. She can score. She's scored 25 points more than once for us."
The Cougars have now won four straight after a three-game losing streak.
"We went on a little slump in the middle of the season," Strojny said. "We lost to three big-time 5A schools. We lost to Zachary by four, to Walker by two in OT and then we got destroyed by Lafayette High, but I wouldn't trade those games for anything.
"It really helped us, guarding great players and great athletes. Larasia Clark, Malayne Doucet and Leigh Labrie for Teurlings are all very athletic, and I thought we were able to guard them. It showed tonight."
Labrie paced the Rebels with 11 points.