After La Marque’s gut-wrenching, season-ending loss Tuesday night against East Chambers, head coach Kevin Wilcox told the 14 players expected to return to the team next season to remember for a long time how they felt in the immediate aftermath.
Those memories, Wilcox hopes, will serve as extra motivation for a team with an already bright future.
“I told them to hold on to this moment, remember the hurt, remember the pain you’re feeling right now,” Wilcox said. “When we’re working out in the summer, when we’re working in the offseason, that’s what they need to keep on their mind.”
La Marque had a 35-1 East Chambers team riding a 25-game winning streak on the brink of an earlier-than-expected playoff exit in Tuesday’s Region III-3A quarterfinal playoff game at Lee College, but an unfortunate lapse of poise late in the game saw a building tidal wave of momentum for the Cougars flatten out, and the Buccaneers held on for a 72-69 win.
East Chambers led 57-46 at the 3:18 mark of the fourth quarter, but La Marque went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 57-53 with 1:24 still left to play.
With a chance to make it a one-possession game following an East Chambers turnover, La Marque was off-target with a shot, and sophomore guard Jordan Ivy-Curry committed a loose ball foul, fouling out of the game. Compounding the situation, Ivy-Curry slammed the ball on the court in frustration, drawing a technical foul.
East Chambers made two of the ensuing four free throws and added another free throw after retaining possession to deflate La Marque’s late push.
“We came up with some pivotal turnovers, and I felt like we had the momentum, and then we got that technical,” Wilcox said. “It always comes back to discipline. You’ve got to stay focused.”
Still, sophomore guard Jeremy Arvie made two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep things interesting, but East Chambers was able escape with its 26th straight win.
Ivy-Curry and sophomore forward Willie Johns were La Marque’s top scorers with 14 points apiece. Arvie was not far behind with 13 points (12 of which came in the fourth quarter).
The Coogs’ lone senior, forward Kordell Stewart, came off the bench for nine points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Edward Robinson chipped in seven points and seven rebounds.
Leading East Chambers were freshman guard Ernest Ceasar (19 points) and junior guard Kordell David (17 points, eight rebounds).
La Marque took it to East Chambers early, finding Johns in the post for the Coogs’ first three baskets of the game and a quick 6-2 lead, and they won the first quarter, 13-11.
However, East Chambers went on a crucial 15-2 run to start the second quarter, and La Marque played from behind for the remainder of the game. La Marque closed the gap multiple times, but East Chambers had an answer for each Coogs push.
“I’m proud of them; they left it all out on the court,” Wilcox said. “If I can get that effort every game next year, we’re going to be very hard to beat.”