|Photo by Keith Stutes/RealSportsPhotos.com|
|Ragin' Cajuns senior forward La'Ryan Gary drives for the basket during UL's thrilling overtime win over Denver Thursday in the Cajundome.|
That limp will be with Gary the rest of his life, but for two hours Thursday night the heart and soul of the Ragin’ Cajun squad pushed aside the pain and left every one of us — the largest Dome crowd in almost a decade — with something to remember.
Just under two years after a horrific knee injury that UL athletic trainer B.J. Duplantis called “the worst thing I’ve ever seen on a court,” one of Acadiana’s own brought the Cajuns within a whisker of a Sun Belt Conference West Division title.
Gary capped his UL career with 22 points and five blocked shots in 39 minutes — all career highs — and the Cajuns won their 10th straight game. This time it was previous West Division leader Denver that was the victim as UL added another pulsating victory to that streak, 58-52 in overtime.
See a slide show from the game here.
Since I was running the game clock (the UL crew was short-handed with so many Cajun sports currently in action), I had a close-up view. I’ve had a pretty good view of UL basketball for 30 years, and La’Ryan’s final-home-game performance — and the story that preceded it — now ranks among my best Cajun memories.
Gary got the biggest ovation of the three seniors honored prior to the game, and that wasn’t a slight to senior partners Randell Daigle and Travis Bureau. It was more a salute to the struggles Gary has endured to get to this point.
“I told them I loved them,” Gary said after the game of the threesome’s embrace prior to tipoff. “It was a pretty emotional moment.”
Not nearly as emotional as the end, though, when the Cajuns had to rally from six down with 4:35 left against the most patient and consistent team in the Sun Belt. Josh Brown’s three-point play cut into that margin, and from there it was Gary’s four free throws and a couple of Pioneer misses that sent the game into overtime.
|Photo by Keith Stutes/RealSportsPhotos.com|
|Ragin' Cajuns freshman forward J.J. Thomas (No. 5) fights for a rebound
Thursday against Denver.
One minute into OT, Gary’s nice inside move tied the game at 52, and he made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch and was also a part of a UL defense that didn’t allow the Pioneers to score at all after the first 30 seconds of overtime.
That win made it nine straight Sun Belt victories, all of them by single-digit margins in what is already a charmed season — regardless of what happens Saturday at UL Monroe in the regular-season finale or in next week’s Sun Belt Tournament. After all, what was a written-off 3-14 season is suddenly 13-14, and if first-year mentor Bob Marlin isn’t the league’s Coach of the Year, the conference should melt down the award and sell it for scrap.
“We believed we had a good team, but things just didn’t go our way at first,” Gary said. “We lost some games we should have won, but we hung in there.”
Gary’s been hanging in ever since the league tournament two years ago, when he tore every ligament and did other collateral damage in what should have been a career-ending knee injury. He missed all of last season, and his practice and game time is still limited and closely watched.
“L. G.’s our warrior,” said freshman and Cajun warrior-in-waiting J.J. Thomas, who had 13 points. “We feed off his energy, because we know he’s really out there on one and a half legs. You don’t know if he’s going to have a good day or a bad day, but he’s always going to give his all.”
That was enough to impress 8,066 fans Thursday, the most in the Cajundome since 2002. No, make that 8,067, since a classy Denver coach Joe Scott praised Gary’s performance after the heart-wrenching loss.
“I’ve always felt he was a good player, but he’s had bad luck with those injuries,” he said on his post-game radio show. “He’s done well because he stuck with it, and that’s how you do well in life.”
Real life still has to wait a couple of weeks. A Cajun win in Monroe Saturday would lock up no worse than a share of the West title and a bye in the first round of next week’s league tournament in Hot Springs, Ark. And UL goes into that meet as the league’s hottest team, with its streak trailing only George Mason (14 straight wins) among the country’s 340 Division I teams.
“There have been times we haven’t played that well,” Marlin said, “but we’ve fought and fought.”
No arguments there.
Breakfast favorites served on a bubbly crust pair with a crisp salad
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
West coast casual
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Four bedroom traditional Youngsville home or three bedroom traditional Broussard home
On Tuesday, a three judge panel (voting two to one) of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional Mississippi’s controversial law requiring that physicians who perform abortions maintain admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
A ballpark snack topped with BBQ meat can be found cruising town on a food truck
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
"Although the administration is moving forward with climate change regulations at home, we don't consider how policy decisions in the United States impact greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world," says Roger Martella, the former general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.
Louisiana agriculture officials say prices for long-grain rice are projected to drop this year.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending July 19 decreased from the previous week's total.
A judge is getting ready to set a new trial date for a former BP executive charged with obstructing a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
If President Barack Obama’s poll numbers, and those for his health care law, haven’t yet bottomed out in the Bayou State, then Democrats surely don’t want to know what the statistical floor actually looks like.
Midsouth Bank has released its second quarter earnings report, showing a year-over-year increase for shareholders.
The comeback of the Wayfarer
Two bedroom New Iberia ranch style house or two bedroom Lafayette condo
The deadline to purchase tickets for the 2014 ABiz Top 50 Business Luncheon featuring top-selling author, political activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is only two weeks away.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.