Isaac Leger goes airborne for a basket in Sacred Heart’s win over Grant. The Trojans and other parish boys’ teams have been impacted by a recent round of wicked weather. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
The winter storm system that shut down schools, roadways and businesses throughout Evangeline Parish this past week, also prematurely ended the seasons for a pair of boys basketball programs.
Entering the week, Pine Prairie had not played a game since a loss to Ville Platte High on January 29th due to COVID-19 protocols. The Panthers though were hoping playing a trio of District 5-3A games this week, and winning a few of those games, would help its chances of making the postseason.
The latest power rankings had Pine Prairie at No. 49. The Panthers wouldn't get that chance as three games were canceled due to the winter storm. With no chance of making the postseason as the LHSAA boys brackets will be unveiled Monday, Pine Praire's season comes to an abrupt end with an 1-10 overall record.
"It hurt deeply, not only for myself but for my players," Pine Prairie first-year coach Simeon Burton said. "Already, we were limited to only 11 games due to COVID. We just never got into a groove with anything."
Pine Prairie wasn't the only team from Evangeline Parish to have its season ended early.
Like Pine Prairie, Mamou was forced to deal with several games being cancelled due to COVID-19. The Demons were also hoping to have the opportunity to put something together in the final week of the season.
Mamou had five games scheduled for this week, four district games and one non-district game against Westminster Christian Academy. The storm took out all five of those contests.
With ranked No. 45 in the latest power rankings, Mamou will end the season 6-19 overall and not in the playoffs.
"It was definitely tough," Mamou coach JB Fontenot said. "I think last Friday we were only eight spots away from the playoffs and had a slim chance of getting in, if we could have won out.
"This whole season has just been crazy with COVID and now the weather."
With not having any control over the final week of the regular season, what was the message that Burton and Fontenot gave their obviously disappointed players.
"I told my seniors that it is tough to go out like this when you are not given a chance at the end of a little run," Fontenot said. "I told my younger guys let's not get in that situation again and focus on getting better now so we can make a playoff run next year."
Burton gave a similar message to his team.
"I told them that this year is a building block," Burton said. "We know what to expect and we know everyone is doubting us. We have to take care of business starting now until October."
Both Ville Platte High and Sacred Heart also had the majority of their final weeks wiped out to the storm.
After losing half a dozen games to COVID protocols, the Bulldogs were set to play Pine Prairie and Mamou this week before the storm. VPHS is scheduled to play Northwest on Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Trojans meanwhile had a pair of non-district contests against Northside Christian and Lacassine scrapped.
Unlike Pine Prairie and Mamou, VPHS and Sacred Heart are secured of earning postseason berths. The Bulldogs (16-6) are ranked No. 7 in the latest 3A power rankings, while the Trojans (12-12) ranked No. 11 in the Division IV power rankings.
That doesn't mean that losing this week's games aren't disappointing.
"It's very frustrating having to miss games that could have dictated where we would land in the final power rankings," VPHS coach Launey Coward said. "We were out 14 days due to COVID and we were thinking we would play Pine Prairie and finally have our Senior Night, but it was lost to the weather. This is not the way we wanted to end the regular season."
"It has been frustrating for sure but when you pause and reflect about where we were four to five months ago," Sacred Heart coach JP Bouillion said. "It is amazing that we were able to play at all. To finish this regular season has truly been a Herculean feat."
In addition to games being cancelled, the winter storm this week also took away much-needed practice time.
"It's hard when we can't have practice but I tell them to watch film on themselves and learn their strengths and weaknesses so when we get a chance to get back in the gym they will know what to work on."
"The challenge will be returning to form after a week off of practice and playing," Bouillion said. "We will have to be creative with practice to keep the competitive juices flowing."