Central Lafourche senior boys’ basketball player Sherman Robinson was soaking in the moment.
After going nearly three calendar years without recording a district victory, his teammate Quindon Charles just put a cap on their 74-50 District 7-5A win over rival South Lafourche on Tuesday night with a pair of open-court dunks.
Charles was mobbed by teammates and members of the student body in attendance, and Robinson talked about the win after the game.
“It was electrifying,” Robinson said. “Everyone knows South Lafourche brings a big crowd whenever they go. To be able to win in our home gym was awesome. It was big.”
Central Lafourche no longer resembled the team that had gone 13-69 overall the last three seasons and last won a district game (before Tuesday) on Jan. 28, 2011.
A major reason for the turnaround is the hiring of head coach Mark Sanders.
Sanders, who coached at Vandebilt Catholic and at Plaquemine High in the 1980s and 1990s and was an assistant at Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette before moving back to his hometown of Hannibal, Mo., was hired as Trojans coach in March of 2013.
He is the brother of former Nicholls State men’s basketball coach Jerry Sanders, and he is the uncle of former Major League and Nicholls baseball player and current E.D. White Catholic assistant baseball coach Scott Sanders.
“Coach Sanders is what we needed,” Robinson said. “He was an answer from God. He has straightened us out and is turning the program around. Every game Coach Sanders tells us to play it like it is our last, play team defense and execute our goals.”
But Sanders said a lot of the credit for the turnaround must go to his five seniors — Luke Falgout, Josh Joseph, Ramon Robertson, Benton Pierce and Robinson.
“We have a good group of seniors. I can leave for the first 30 or 45 minutes of practice, and they can run it,” Sanders said. “They are mature and they are leaders on our team. Everyone always talks about how our sophomore group or our freshman group is going to be great, but I don’t want to wait for them. I want to do the best I can with the group I have now and those seniors are part of that.”
There’s no doubt the rest of the teams and coaches in District 7-5A are no longer looking at the Trojans as two easy wins on the league schedule.
“(Sanders) has them organized, and they are playing some good ball,” South Lafourche coach Brian Callais said after Tuesday’s game. “They are running different sets and are doing different things defensively. He is doing a good job. You have to give them credit.”
Central Lafourche had a 5-22 record last year but bounced back strong this year with a 17-10 record. The Trojans made their first appearance in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 5A playoffs since 2009-10 this season.
In a season where they lost five games by five points or less, Sanders said he was proud to see his team win their final six games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.
“This is something our kids really needed,” Sanders said. “It’s one of those things where you wanted to see success for the kids. We needed that win. Everybody on this team did their job at the right time. We were down, but we just kept coming back. We took it from there at the end and finished strong. That’s the key to a good basketball team.”
Although it suffered a season-ending first-round loss to East St. John High in the playoffs, Central Lafourche’s players credit Sanders for helping turnaround the team.
“It’s an exciting time this being my senior year,” Joseph said. “We know we have a coach like Coach Sanders who cares and who disciplines us. He never lets off of us, and we all buy into it because we want to win.”