Quietly Winning: Stafford advances to first State Tournament since 2010
HOUSTON – David Montano recognizes the quality of basketball that surrounds his school.
Surrounded by Morton Ranch, led by Baylor-signee LJ Cryer and TCU-signee Eddie Lampkin; Fort Bend Hightower, which has national prospect Bryce Griggs; Bellaire which reached a Regional Final and the national-headline grabber Jack Yates can cause people to overlook you sometimes.
In the middle of that plethora of basketball talent sits Stafford High School.
"People ask me all the time, where is Stafford?" the second-year Stafford basketball coach said. "We start with Houston, because everyone knows where that is. We're Southwest Houston. We're surrounded by Fort Bend ISD, Houston ISD and Katy ISD.
"You have to explain where it's at."
Montano may have to explain even more this week than usual on the whereabouts of Stafford High School when they arrive at the Alamodome for the 2020 UIL Boys Basketball State Tournament this week.
With a 49-48 victory over Boerne on Saturday, Stafford for the first time since 2010 will play in a state semifinal.
"It's something that I foresaw," Montano said. "Of course, every coach says that. It's one of those things that I thought that we could get there because of what we had coming back. It worked out really well."
What he saw was the pipeline of talent coming.
After his first year in 2019, Montano had a varsity squad that made the playoffs – losing to Liberty Hill in the Area Round – a junior varsity team that only lost three games all year and a freshman squad that lost just one game, which came against an opposing junior varsity team.
He knew year two "could be a great opportunity" for them and had so much confidence to even book his Regional Tournament hotel all the way back in April.
The confidence Montano exudes could also come from the fact that he's been here before. In his five seasons of leading La Marque, he took the Cougars to the state tournament twice.
"I've been there. I've seen the work that it takes and the type of kids it takes to get there," Montano said.
Stafford shouldn't be as big of a surprise as they are being made out to be though. The Spartans have been good all year long.
But when you have a program like Jack Yates – which broke their own National Record this season for consecutive games with 100 or more points (the streak reached 21) – in the same classification as you they will naturally get the headlines.
Stafford likes where they are though and they role they've played all year.
"We don't mind being the underdog, per say, or just rolling along somewhere in the back," Montano said. "We rolled 19 wins in a row just quietly. Which is fine, we just worried about ourselves. We don't really have one outstanding player, everybody contributes periodically. We just give and take what an opponent will give us."
"He does a really good job inside the paint. Whether he has to score or rebound or assist. He just does what he does." – Stafford coach David Montano on Sophomore Z'Corrian Hayes
Montano did give Jack Yates a nod, though.
The Stafford coach commended the program, the job Coach Greg Wise and staff have done and how the kids have worked to get to the state tournament as well.
Ironically, if Jack Yates defeats defending Class 4A State Champion Oak Cliff Faith Family and Stafford takes care of Argyle in the semifinals on Friday afternoon it would set up an all-Houston Class 4A State Championship game.
"You've got to win Friday first," "We haven't looked at it, we're just looking at Argyle first. You can't play for a state championship unless you win the semifinal. We're just focusing on winning that game.
"If it was to happen, that would be awesome for Houston and the surrounding communities. We'd like the opportunity."