The Larose-Cut Off Middle School girls’ basketball team added another impressive feather to its cap this week.
The Lady Bulldogs are officially the Louisiana Middle School State Champions.
The dominant local middle school hoops squad traveled to Louisiana Tech this weekend to take part in the 16-team Multi-State Middle School Championship Tournament – an event held annually at Louisiana Tech and sponsored by Adidas.
After competing with some of the best programs in the country, LCO emerged as the 2014 Champion, scoring four victories in two days to take home the title.
Lady Bulldogs’ coach Jason LeBoeuf said the accomplishment solidified what he and the south Lafourche community already know – he’s coaching a special group of kids.
“This is an outstanding accomplishment for us, and we’re so proud of the kids for what they’ve done,” LeBoeuf said. “There were so many great teams playing at this tournament, so for our team to step up, take on the challenge and bring home the championship, it’s an incredible feeling.
“It just seems like the bigger the game is, the better our kids play. Usually, it’s the opposite because kids this age sometimes shy away from the moment. But our ladies are different. They step up and play their best against great competition.”
The truth is that the LCO ladies dominated the stiff competition throughout the two-day tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs won all four of their games by 20 or more points throughout the weekend, including a 53-24 shellacking of Rayville – the two-time defending champions at the event.
Larose controlled the championship game from start-to-finish, taking a 27-8 halftime lead over the defending champions.
From there, Larose ballooned its lead out of reach in the second half to take firm control of the game and the tournament championship.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, it became like nostalgic déjà vu for a Lady Bulldogs team that has experienced success at every level of competition from birth.
Several contributing members of the undefeated LCO squad competed on South Lafourche Biddy Basketball’s World Championship team in 2013 – a group that established itself as one of the top youth squads in America, and the top team in its Biddy age group.
One of those players is LCO eighth grade guard Traya Bruce, who was named an All-American and Miss Biddy at the 2013 World Tournament.
At the Multi-State Middle School Championship Tournament it was a carbon copy finish for Bruce, who also took home the event’s Most Valuable Player Trophy.
“She played great for us. She always plays great for us,” LeBoeuf said. “Traya is a special player that every coach really would love to have. She’s used to playing in big games. This whole group has played in big, high stakes games their whole career. She stepped up and we’re honored and happy that she was able to earn the MVP trophy.”
But it was probably LCO’s depth of talent that allowed the team to take home the title.
LeBoeuf said that the Lady Bulldogs had a handful of girls who deserved consideration for tournament MVP. The statistics show that his words are accurate.
In LCO’s tournament-opening victory against Ruston on Friday night, the Lady Bulldogs started slow and limped out of the gates compared to their lofty standards, holding just a small lead in the early minutes of play.
LeBoeuf said he thinks the slow start was a mixture of nerves and “bus-lag” for the team that traveled several hours on the roads from Larose to Ruston the day of the game.
“Once we got ourselves settled and started playing our kind of basketball, we really did a nice job of taking control of the game and getting a pretty solid lead,” LeBoeuf said. “This whole thing was a nervous time because we didn’t know anything about the teams we were playing, so it’s always a little nervous when you have no information about your opponent. But we responded well and did great.”
After overcoming the early jitters, LCO took control and scored a comfortable 52-19 victory against Ruston. Eighth grader Jacey Gautreaux led the Lady Bulldogs with 19 points in the opening night win, while Bruce pitched in 11 and Kyzha Jackson had 10.
After beating Ruston, LCO scored a 49-29 victory against a Red River Junior High School squad that entered the game with a 32-3 record.
LeBoeuf said he was proud of the second-round win because Red River had one of the most skilled middle school players he’d ever seen.
“She was unreal,” LeBoeuf said. “They were a great team. They had won multiple tournaments throughout the year.”
But LCO used team defense and balanced scoring to secure the win. Lady Bulldogs’ post Victorianna Nelson led LCO with 22 points against Red River, while Gautreaux pitched in 15.
With that win, LCO moved to the semifinals where Bruce and Gautreaux each scored 16 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 51-23 win against Lee Junior High School in Monroe.
Nelson also pitched in 13 points in the semifinals win, which paved the way for the championship game victory.
“There was only one individual award, which was a little disappointing because we had a lot of girls who deserved individual recognition,” LeBoeuf said. “Our girls really did a great job throughout the weekend. We were concerned about playing three times in a day because we play a fast tempo. But the girls didn’t wear out. They looked like they had another game left in them when we played the finals.”
So with the Lady Bulldogs back home and a new trophy added to the collection, LCO is now ready for more.
The Lady Bulldogs will aim to become the Lafourche Parish Championships in the coming days in the middle school playoffs – a journey that will begin this week.
LeBoeuf noted the irony of a team being Louisiana State Champion without officially being crowned champion within its own parish.
But he said that the Lady Bulldogs will not take anything for granted and will fight to keep their perfect 17-0 record clean.
“There are great teams in our parish,” LeBoeuf said. “No matter what happened this week or anything, we know we have to take care of business and do our part the rest of the season.”
But LeBoeuf also finished his thoughts with what is seemingly obvious – his group of achievers seem poised to continue to achieve.
“A lot of the girls said this felt like Biddy Nationals all over again. To me, I think this was maybe even a little bit bigger of an achievement because of how stiff the competition was here and the number of great teams at the event,” LeBoeuf said. “It’s just one in a list of great things these girls have done, and hopefully will continue to do into the future.”
The Larose-Cut Off Middle School basketball team is officially the top team in the state. The Lady Bulldogs earned that title after dominating the competition at the Multi-State Middle School Championship Tournament in Ruston. LCO played four games in their two-day stay, winning each game by at least 20 points. Guard Traya Bruce was named the event’s MVP.