Will St. Thomas More sweep or Northside break through?

When St. Thomas More wrapped up a perfect District 5-4A championship to complete a season sweep over his team, Northside basketball coach Devan Clark was
certain of one thing.

STM had all the qualities needed to make it to the state championship. The only question in his mind was whether his Vikings could join them.

“They’re probably one of the best teams we’ve faced all year long,” Clark said of STM “They spent time at the
No. 1 spot and had some quality wins. I saw them being there, but I didn’t necessarily know if we could.”

Seven straight wins, including a two-point overtime win over the top-seeded team, have enabled No. 4 Northside (30-6) to join No. 2 STM (33-4) in the Class 4A state title game at 8 p.m. Friday in the LHSAA/State Farm Top 28 Tournament.

“I told one of my assistants after Northside beat East Jefferson (49-43) and we beat
St. Aug (70-68 in OT) it would be us and Northside in the final,” STM coach Danny Broussard said of both teams’ come-from-behind quarterfinal wins. “We’ve both been able to come back from double-digit deficits in the playoffs and win. To do it against the quality of opponents we’ve each done it against is what makes it really amazing.”

Northside is pursuing the school’s second state championship and first since 2006, while STM is trying to claim its first title since 1986, when the Cougars were in Class 3A.

The unusual thing is this
season’s third game between the two archrivals, which are separated by 10 miles, comes 185 miles away from their Lafayette home at the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

STM made a 14-point home lead hold up over Northside in a 48-43 victory Jan. 15 and overcame a six-point, third-quarter deficit for a 54-51 victory over the Vikings just more than two weeks later.

“They were both big games,” Broussard said. “I think Northside’s gotten better just like us. They’ve always played really good defense, and I think they’re playing even
better now.”

STM, which is riding a
16-game win streak, relies on junior 6-foot-1 guard Trey Touchet, the team’s lone double-digit scorer at 21.2 points per game. Senior post player Charlie Padgett (8.8), senior guard Ryan Randle (7.9) and junior sixth man Orynn Veillon (7.8) typify the team’s
balance after Touchet.

Northside has won 15 of its past 17 games and counts on the 1-2 punch of 6-4 forwards Kendall Demouchet and Gerard Andrus for 15 and 13 points. Senior guard Shannon James is next at 8.0 points.

“When they won and we won, we were happy with the matchup,” Clark said of each team’s semifinal wins over Peabody and Istrouma. “I was also happy for the city of Lafayette to show the quality of basketball we play. Outside of that, we would have played anybody, but it’s just a familiar opponent.”