Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Orleans Area CYO Tourney Preview: Cajuns get ready for stiff challenge

By Pierce W. Huff
Times Picayune
Staff writer

They are the defending Class 1A state basketball champions with one of the state's top players, LSU signee Matt Derenbecker, but the Country Day Cajuns have something to prove coming into today's four-day Allstate Sugar Bowl CYO Tournament.

The tournament begins at four sites -- Rummel, Brother Martin, Shaw and Jesuit -- today and Thursday. The semifinals and finals will be at Jesuit on Friday and Saturday.

County Day will play at Rummel with St. Charles and Karr. All of the teams the Cajuns will play are in higher classifications.

Country Day opens the tournament against St. Charles at 6 p.m.

"With Rummel, St. Charles and Karr, we feel our pool is very tough," Country Day Coach Mike McGuire said. "I think this is going to be a top-notch tournament."

Country Day (4-0) wants to show it can hold its own against the top teams in the area while adding former football players to the lineup and dealing with injuries.

Country Day's Sean Wurzel was scheduled to be a starting guard/forward this season, but the quarterback of the football team tore knee ligaments and is out for the season. Guard Nick Thomas is recovering from a broken foot he incurred playing football. Forward Dylan Kavanagh will start, but he's recovering from a shoulder injury that occurred on the gridiron.

But the good news for the Cajuns is that football players Billy Harrison, Matt LeCorgne, Jack Koch and Nick Hansel have made solid contributions, and they should play big roles this season.

"I think the football players have added some depth to our team," McGuire said.

If Country Day can survive its bracket, the reward will be a game against St. Augustine, the preseason pick for the top team in the metro area.

But St. Augustine Coach Cliff Barthe said he will worry about Country Day when, and if, he faces the Cajuns.

St. Augustine (5-0) is in a bracket with Holy Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas and host Brother Martin.

"We've got some very good teams at our site, and it will be a strong site to get out of," Barthe said.

St. Augustine plays Holy Cross today at 6 p.m.

Barthe said the best thing about the CYO Tournament is the competition.

"Every night we have an opportunity to prove ourselves and get better as a team," he said. "This tournament is a big deal. It's the CYO, and it's the oldest around."

History has shown that if a team does well in the CYO it usually pays off later in the season.

"In this tournament you're playing the same teams that you're going to be playing at the end of the year," Barthe said. "We're in the Catholic League with Brother Martin. Holy Cross, we will see them in January. We also play Ellender, and Shaw is in our district."

Country Day also is hoping to use the CYO as a springboard.

"We're not where we want to be just yet," McGuire said.

NOTES: Salmen's boys and girls basketball games at Slidell scheduled for Tuesday were canceled because of the gym's leaky roof.

Courtesy of the Times Picayune

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