‘We’re going back!’ Atascocita headed back to state for second straight year
CYPRESS—Atascocita boys basketball coach David Martinez cut the last strand of the net, a custom celebration for champions, and held it up for all to see.
“We’re going back!” Martinez bellowed. “We’re going back!”
Yes, indeed, the Eagles are headed back to the state tournament for the second straight season, and third time since 2016, after overwhelming Shadow Creek, 67-49, in the Region III-6A final at the Berry Center.
“We came up short last year,” senior guard AJ Aungst said. “We knew right away we wanted to get back to state, and we did what we had to do. A lot of running, two-a-day practices. It all paid off.”
.@AHS_Eagle_BBall: Region III-6A champs for the second straight season. #txhshoops @HumbleISD_AHS @HumbleISD_Ath @HumbleISDpic.twitter.com/rwU0uE2n3S— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1646515665
The Eagles (34-6) booked a return trip to San Antonio through their usual recipe of defense and shooting.
Atascocita broke open a 31-all halftime tie by pumping up the defense in the third quarter. Shadow Creek, which committed just four turnovers in the first half, had five in the third quarter.
“These guys work really hard year-round, and we feel we’re one of the better-conditioned teams around, just from all the work we do,” Martinez said. “We made that adjustment. Sometimes we come out too soon and play too hard, and sometimes we’ve got to make it a long game. We’ve got some leaders on this team, some seniors who’ve been around, so they know what to expect.”
The Eagles made the most of their takeaways in the third quarter. Aungst had back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 11. Senior guard Devion Randle came off the bench to throw in five points. Atascocita three of six 3-pointers in the quarter.
And it was all punctuated with senior forward Kaleb Pouncy’s incredible alley-oop slam off senior guard Angel Johnson’s toss right as the quarter buzzer expired.
Overall, Atascocita outscored Shadow Creek, 21-9, in the third.
“It gave us energy to carry on and finish,” said Pouncy, who had six of his eight points in the third quarter. “It was instincts. My bro Angel threw it up. We’d been playing together since we were five years old. He knew where I was, and I knew where he was.”
WOW. At the buzzer, Kaleb Pouncy gets UP! His slam has @AHS_Eagle_BBall up 52-40 going into the fourth. #txhshoops @HumbleISD_AHS @KPRC2RandyMcpic.twitter.com/ZTxuNffLLw— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1646513952
Atascocita took advantage of a clearly frustrated Shadow Creek from there on, with a plethora of back cuts for easy layups. The Sharks were forced to overplay the Eagles’ shooters. Atascocita knocked down eight of 17 triples in the game, and started hot by making five of seven in the first quarter.
“The message this week is enjoy the moment,” Martinez said. “This is big, but we’ve got one more to go and we’ve got to refocus. The big thing with this team is last year, we were trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. This year, it’s more alive. They’re pushing. They keep working for the next week, the next game. This team has a one-at-a-time mentality.”
Aungst and senior Landyn Johnson, who scored 11 points off the bench in the first quarter to get the Eagles off to an inspired start, each led Atascocita with 13 points apiece. Senior guard Connor Miller and Pouncy added eight apiece. Randle had seven.
Shadow Creek, a regional finalist for the second time in three years, was paced by its two senior stars Camron Amboree (18 points) and Shawn Jones (14 points). But the Sharks’ 10 second-half turnovers, ineffectiveness from 3-point range (eight of 25 shooting), and lack of aggressiveness attacking the rim (just four free throw attempts) doomed them.
.@AHS_Eagle_BBall senior AJ Aungst talks about today\u2019s regional final win over Shadow Creek. Aungst had 13 points. The Eagles are headed back to state for the second straight year, and third time since 2016. #txhshoops @HumbleISD @HumbleISD_AHS @HumbleISD_Athpic.twitter.com/Z2oo3comx7— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1646516338
Now Atascocita has eyes on a state championship. It knows what it takes.
Carson Edwards, Fabian White, and Co. fell just short in 2016, losing to DeSoto in the state final. Last year, the Eagles lost to Austin Westlake in the state semifinal.
Aungst said the goal is simple: get off to a fast start and avoid the slow initial efforts of last year’s game against Westlake. Martinez said it’s important his kids are relaxed and play “Atascocita basketball.”
“We need to make sure we bring energy, a defensive mindset, and stick together as a team,” Pouncy said. “Whatever happens, do it together.”