Canterbury Episcopal School basketball. What’s not to love?

The program is on the verge of winning its third consecutive state title and for coach Scott Vaughan and the Cougars, it doesn’t get old as he instills this in his players.

“It never gets ho-hum; each one is unique with unique players,” Vaughan, a Waxahachie resident, said as he preps his team to take on Houston Clear Lake in the 2008 TAPPS Class 2A state tournament today in San Antonio. “This one may be harder than the others because everyone is shooting for us.”

If the Cougars (27-6) win the state semifinal, they move on to play the winner of the Texoma/Tomball Rosehill game scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The state final is scheduled Saturday at 3 p.m.

Despite winning back-to-back titles, Texoma actually comes into the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state even after falling to San Antonio New Life in the state semifinal last season. It’s a label Vaughan admits he doesn’t mind having for the Cougars.

“I would much rather be an underdog than favorite,” the third-year Canterbury coach said. “Everyone roots for the underdog. We hope we are being overlooked.”

Those “underdogs” include point guard Daniel Cleveland, guards Jabari Coner and Ramses Larobino and forwards Jairus Burdick and Josiah Vaughan. Duston Gouge, of Waxahachie, who was the starting shooting guard, won’t be playing because he broke his hand two weeks ago and now is recovering from surgery.

Besides confidence, these players also possess height. The smallest player is Coner, who is 5-8 but he can move quickly.

“Getting back to the state finals three years in a row says that our players have brought into our system and they believe in it,” Vaughan said. “Our coaching staff does a good job of scouting opponents but our kids have to execute the game plan. More and more kids are wanting to come play for us.”

He’s correct as only one starter, Coner, hails from DeSoto, where the school is based. The other staters reside in Ovilla, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and Cedall Hill.

They hope to join a fraternity of Cougars that have experienced state championship basketball, which includes double digit wins against Sherman Texoma in 2006 and San Antonio New Life in 2007 in games played at nearby Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth.

New Life was ranked No. 1 going into the state final last season.

“I don't think we have ever been disrespected; this year we are ranked No. 2 right behind Texoma,” a modest Vaughan said, whose wife Lanelle and four children will attend the game at Northside ISD’s Paul Taylor Field House located at 7001 Culebra Road near Loop 410 West.

Titles aren’t new to Vaughan, even before he came to Canterbury as he was the SAGU basketball coach for six years where his Lions won an NCCAA national championship.

Before his tenure at SAGU Vaughan coached Waxahachie Cornerstone and also Dallas Gospel Lighthouse to TAPPS state titles.

Since returning to the high school level in 2005, the Cougars are 79-18 overall.

Email Albert at albert.villegas@wninews.com