Central Catholic High School's Brooks Thomas celebrates following the Eagles' quarterfinal victory against Southern Lab Friday. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Central Catholic's Elijah Swan dribbles down the court during the Eagles' quarterfinal victory against Southern Lab Friday. Swan and Brooks Thomas are the Eagles' two senior on this year's squad. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
CCHS seniors are looking for a title in their last season
Central Catholic High School seniors Brooks Thomas and Elijah Swan have known each other since prekindergarten at then-Holy Cross Elementary.
They have played basketball with one another since they were about 10 years old.
And now this week, they have a chance to conclude their high school careers with a state championship, something no other Central Catholic boys basketball team has done in school history.
That journey will start Tuesday when the No. 2 seed Eagles (22-9) take on No. 3 Hamilton Christian (26-8) in one Division IV semifinal contest at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles Tuesday at 3
p.m. The winner will meet the winner of the 4:45 p.m. contest between top seed and two-time defending state champion Lafayette Christian Academy and No. 4 Opelousas Catholic for the state title Friday at noon.
The Eagles have had plenty of success qualifying for the quarterfinals, advancing to the elite eight round eight times between their last semifinal appearance and this one. Swan and Thomas have been on the last two of those squads to advance to quarterfinals.
“To make it to Lake Charles this year, it feels really great,” Swan said.
Thomas said he and Swan have talked about how they have to make this trip a meaningful one because it is their last shot.
However, Thomas said just getting there is not the goal.
The Eagles’ seniors and their teammates had to climb out of a hole in their quarterfinal contest, though, falling behind by double digits to No. 10 seed Southern Lab in the third quarter.
“Me and Elijah looked at each other, and we weren’t going out like that,” Thomas said of a moment in the huddle with the Eagles down in the third quarter. “We had to cut it to at least five before the end of the third, and that’s what we did.”
Thomas said the Eagles weren’t just going to let Southern Lab take the game.
“These two guys realized from the beginning that this is their last year,” Central Catholic Coach Ree Case said of his two seniors’ mentality this year. “We have a chance to do something
nobody’s done at this school, and you got to take advantage of it (as seniors), because every time you go through something, it’s your last game. … Brooks and Elijah have taken that. They play like it’s their last game every night, and that’s what you need from your seniors. It’s why we are where we are.”
Swan, who has started for five years for the Eagles, said that it has been different being a senior and taking on a leadership role. He said he typically is a quiet person.
“I usually look up to somebody and not people looking up to me,” he said.
With the change in role this year, though, Swan said it has “made him a better basketball player and more of a leader and helped me to be more responsible.”
Swan, a returning Louisiana Sports Writers Association Honorable Mention Class 1A All-State selection a year ago, is second on the team in scoring this year, averaging 13.8 points per game.
Thomas, who has started for the Eagles for four years, is leading the team with 15.8 points per contest.
“Last year we kind of struggled scoring, so I knew Elijah was going to need a little bit of help,” Thomas said.
Thomas said whenever Case needs someone to do something, he knows his two seniors can get the job done.
“We like that role,” Thomas said. “We like being the guys to go to and being the big-time players.”