LA MARQUE – With only two returning players from last season’s Class 3A state semifinalist, it was easy to assume La Marque’s boys’ basketball team would be confronted with a daunting challenge.
While that challenge featured a bushel of setbacks, Cougars coach David Montano molded a young squad that attained an 18-12 record and a share of the District 24-3A title, putting them in position for a return trip to Austin.
The trek begins tonight when Houston Booker T. Washington visits in a bi-district round matchup.
“I knew it would take time for them to develop,” said Montano, whose team came within a point of winning consecutive outright district titles. “We started slow until everyone came back from football, and that took some time for them to start over again and get acclimated to the court.”
La Marque’s acclimation meant taking on bigger opponents like Texas City, Ball High, Katy and Nacogdoches.
With each contest came more experience, especially for players like freshman Raymond Stubblefield, who went from playing junior high hoops to playing some of the best players in the Houston area.
Playing in tournaments in the Rio Grande Valley and Aldine during the Christmas holidays translated into consistency, which showed in district play as the Coogs went undefeated before a 39-38 loss to Stafford in Tuesday’s 24-3A finale.
Stubblefield’s maturity was one of the keys to La Marque’s success.
“He has grown immensely during the season,” Montano said. “He’s got a very great future ahead of him.”
Once Michael Hardeman returned from football, the Cougars found a much-needed post presence. Hardeman, who missed most of last season with an injury, has become a game-changer on both ends of the court, leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots.
“I think we match up well against Washington (17-12),” Montano said. “They’re like a lot of the District 23-3A teams in that they’re very athletic, love running up and down the court and putting pressure on the ball. We’re familiar with that style of play, and we’ll look to slow them down.”
Boys playoffs games
La Marque vs. Houston Washington, 7 p.m. at La Marque High School
Hitchcock vs. Anahuac, 7:30 p.m. at Deer Park High School
Clear Springs vs. FB Travis, 6 p.m. at Manvel High School
Clear Falls vs. FB Bush, 8 p.m. at Manvel High School
Clear Creek vs. FB Elkins, 8 p.m. at Dawson High School
Texas City vs. George Ranch, 6 p.m. at Pearland High School
Ball High vs. Angleton, 8 p.m. at Pearland High School
Friendswood vs. FB Terry, 6 p.m. at Stafford High School
Girls playoffs games
Clear Springs vs. Pearland, 6 p.m. at Clear Lake High School
Friendswood vs. Goose Creek, 8 p.m., at Phillips Fieldhouse in Pasadena