Anytime the Northside Vikings and the St. Thomas More Cougars face each other in an athletic event, the anticipation and excitement it generates between the two fans bases is second to none.
But tonight’s basketball games between the two schools at STM may very well be a cut above.
“There is no doubt this is going to be a great night for basketball in the area,” STM coach Danny Broussard said. “We usually don’t draw well for a Tuesday night game, but being that it is Northside I’m expecting there to be a great crowd. This is a game that’s great for the city, not necessarily people who are fans of Northside or STM, but people that are just looking to see great basketball.” The Lady Vikings and the Lady Cougars will kick it off at 6:30 p.m. “They have two huge wins already this season over Notre Dame and the defending Class 5A state champions Lafayette High,” STM girls coach Stephen Strojny said. “Our girls are just as excited about playing them as they are to be playing us.” It’s been so long that no one seems to know the last time the Lady Vikings beat STM, although some feel like this could be Northside’s big chance to end the drought. “We have heard more people saying this is the year we won’t win, instead of this is the year we will win,” Strojny said. “So, I definitely think our girls have a chip on their shoulder. They have something to prove, because they work just as hard as all of the previous STM teams.” Although she’s confident her Lady Vikings as being ready for the task at hand, Northside head coach Tarunye Kanonu knows it won’t be easy.
“STM has always been one of the top opponents in basketball, especially in the area,” Kanonu said. “They have a really good team and they are doing really well this season. I know a lot of people have doubted them this year, but I don’t know why they’ve been doubted. This is a good team.” STM is led by Paije Hall and Jodi Quinn.
“We’re going to have to play defense,” Kanonu said. “It’s going to take everyone on our team to play good defense if we’re going to be successful. Paije creates a lot of problems with her size and height, but more importantly her experience.” It should be quite the battle inside between Hall and Northside’s senior center Toni Woods, who stands just over 6-feet.
“Paije and Toni are two of the biggest post players in the state,” Strojny said. “Toni is a beast in the post and Paije has been very consistent for us. It’s going to be a great matchup.” At about 7:30 p.m., the main event featuring Northside’s senior duo point guard Shannon James and forward Kendall Demouchet vs. STM’s junior guard Trey Touchet and senior Matt Roberts will begin.
“It’s such a great rivalry and I must say it’s been about as clean a rival that I’ve been a part of in my 30 years of coaching,” Broussard said. “There are some places that I’ve gone that I don’t enjoy going, but playing Northside here and over there has been very clean.” On the floor, the game is expected to be highpaced, but Clark knows he must beware of STM’s deadly shooters.
“STM can shoot the basketball,” Vikings coach Devan Clark said. “They are by far the best shooting team we will have faced. There are times when you run across a team that has one kid or maybe even two kids that can shoot it, but all five kids on the floor can shoot the basketball for STM.” As a result, Clark is still searching for answers on how he’s going to defend the Cougars.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to defend five shooters on the floor at the same time,” Clark said.
Touchet tops the list, though.
“Trey is a great competitor,” Clark said. “I really enjoy watching him. I was really impressed with him his freshman year because he is so versatile. He can shoot it, put it on the floor, rebound and defend. He’s special. I mean he’s really special.” Broussard has concerns of his own, citing while they are “lacking in depth they are still very talented.” “The personnel from top to bottom may not be what they are used to, but this team is really good,” Broussard said. “The Demouchet and James kid are as good of players we have in our league and the (Gerard) Andrus kid is a beast on the boards.” Northside’s transition game is a big concern for Broussard.
“What I’m so impressed with is their transition game,” Broussard said. “They know how to finish when they have a 3-on-1 or a 3-on-2. They are good at going from defense to offense and they do a tremendous job of crashing the boards on both ends.”