Stan Humphries came one game shy of checking every box on his wish list for the 2019-20 basketball season.
The Ouachita Christian Lady Eagles basketball coach held strong after a disappointing 53-50 loss in the Division IV State Championship Game against St. Mary’s in the Lady Eagles’ own gym. Instead of thinking about what could have been in a remarkable 35-1 campaign, the 2020 Ouachita Citizen Girls Basketball Coach of the Year made sure his girls didn't regret checking off that undefeated box. Instead, he informed them about another box they checked off in defeat.
“I told them three years ago that I wanted them to play in a standing-room only gym,” Humphries said. “They got to experience that in the semifinals and finals. To pack it the way they did, to sell it out in about an hour twice, that’s something to be proud of. I’m glad they got to experience that.”
As they say, Rome wasn’t built overnight. Under Humphries, OCS went from 16-13 during the 2017-18 season to 27-9 in the 2018-19 season. The Lady Eagles ripped off an amazing 35-game win streak in the 2019-20 season before losing the final game of the season.
As you can imagine, a lot of hard work went into building a program that went from a handful of wins four seasons ago to one of the best teams in the state last season. Among those things were hours upon hours of traveling to scout opponents on top of more hours formulating scouting reports so that every member of the basketball team entered every contest fully aware of opposing teams' strengths and weaknesses.
“Instead of going into the game nervous, you go into it confidently because you already know what people want to do against you,” said senior Andi Grace Melton back in January.
Thus, the hours Humphries put into the OCS program called for some nice R&R once the season concluded.
“I had a plan to take a trip to visit some friends of ours from California in Arizona once the season was over with,” Humphries said. “After the (championship game on Saturday), we jumped in the car and drove 12 hours, spent the night and drove seven more hours until we finally got to Scottsdale, Arizona. We were not going to fly. I wanted to drive and just relax. Of course, during the time, you can’t help but think about the game. I didn’t think we played as smart as we played all year, and that’s one thing that goes back to me. And I ask myself, ‘Did I prepare them well enough?’”
It was Humphries’ preparation combined with the OCS players buying into the program that made OCS a nightmare for opponents this fall.
Reflecting on his team, it donned on him just how difficult it would be to get others to vote on his girls for All-State and other awards. Because most teams have one to two dominant scorers. Humphries built a team that can go beyond 10 girls and still produce winning results on the court.
Take a gander at OCS’ stat leaders from this past season:
— Points: Emery Wirtz (14 points per game)
— Assists: Jayden Ellerman (200 total)
— Rebounds: Wirtz (seven rebounds per game)
— Steals: Ellerman (125 total)
Wirtz was the District 2-1A MVP, but Conleigh Laseter with her 12 points per game, five rebounds per game and 120 steals and Avery Hopkins with her 12 points per game, five rebounds per game and 120 steals were both First-Team selections.
“I think with the style that we try to play and the thing that I try to get across to the girls is, it could be anybody on any given night,” Humphries said. “Always preaching to let the game come to you. The total concept of all of us together is better than sometimes relying on one or two individuals. It’s the ability to take seven, eight, nine, 10, 12 girls and have them playing together without caring who has the most success. Because in the end, we all have the success.”
Humphries wanted his team to take pride in the fact that they bought into that, and it made OCS nearly impossible to beat all season long. And the fans noticed. OCS senior Lauren Shanas said fans used to show up for the last few minutes of the girls game just to get an early seat for the boys game. That was no longer the case.
Through hard work and perseverance, the Lady Eagles became the main attraction.
“That’s a credit to these girls,” Humphries said. “To change the perception of the Ouachita Christian Lady Eagles from just another basketball team to something fun and exciting to watch is a credit to them. And it’s like I told them all the time. It’s not easy to do what they did. If it was, everybody would be out there doing it.”
Humphries' identity may forever be “Stan the Man” from his playing days at Northeast to playing in a Super Bowl with the San Diego Chargers. But his second act in athletics might be even more impressive. His desire to be the best combined with his admiration for the next generation transformed OCS. And Northeast Louisiana basketball is all the more better for it.