Atascocita finds solace in another trip to state tournament

SAN ANTONIO — From the moment Kaleb Pouncy first set foot on campus at Atascocita, coach David Martinez was tough on him. He pushed the young basketball player every day to reach his potential.

“I’ve been on his tail, trying to get the best of out of him since he walked in the door,” Martinez said. “It’s not always pretty, is it? But he knows I love him. I’m just trying to make him and the rest of the guys the best versions of themselves and the best version of our team that we can possibly be.”

Those early teachings paid dividends as Pouncy helped the Eagles make back-to-back state tournament appearances. The 6-foot-6 forward earned his spot as a starter this season, along with four other seniors, and made the most of the opportunity.

“Since the get-go, Coach Martinez has always been like another source of a father for all of us,” Pouncy said as Martinez put his arm around him following a 50-36 loss to Duncanville in the state semifinals Friday night. “He’s big on family and brotherhood. Just to play for him means a lot. He’ll do anything for you. He’s always got your back, and we all know that. We try to do the same for him on the court, and we just didn’t get it done today.”

Atascocita put up a fight against a Duncanville team ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN. The Eagles built a 20-point lead in the first half, but the Panthers simply had too much size and length and finished the game on a 40-6 run to survive and advance.

“When we came in freshman year, we knew we wanted to get to state,” senior guard AJ Aungst said. “We knew we had a close bond and a close family, and Coach Martinez is like another father to us almost. We’re with him every day, putting in work. Everything we do is for this game, and we just came up short.”

There were a lot of uncertainties when Atascocita started the season. The Eagles couldn’t rest on the laurels of the 2021 team that reached the pinnacle. They had to create their own identity and integrate new faces, like senior guard Landyn Jumawan, who transferred from Humble.

“My first year here, I came in, and they just welcomed me with open arms,” said Jumawan, who scored a game-high 13 points against Duncanville. “All the coaches – Coach Martinez, Coach (Darnell) Hale, Coach Paris (Marquez). All the boys just became my brothers. Not once did they try to push me away. They just welcomed me in and accepted me into a brotherhood, and now we’re family for life.”

That family certainly added to the already strong tradition of the Atascocita basketball program. Since Martinez took the reins for the 2012-13 season, the Eagles have an overall record of 302-69 with nine playoff appearances, six regional tournament appearances and three trips to the state tournament.

This year’s team won the District 21-6A championship and never wavered through the first five rounds of the playoffs. The Eagles finished the season with a 34-7 record, the most wins for an Atascocita team since the 2016 squad went 38-1.

The Eagles will say goodbye to Pouncy, Aungst, Jumawan and fellow seniors Devion Randle, Kanye Ortiz, Angel Johnson, Pierce Marquez, Gabe Acay, Connor Miller, David Martinez and Tyrell Randolph.

“I’m very proud of what this team accomplished,” Martinez said. “We didn’t reach our goal, but at the end of the day, that’s not really our purpose. Our purpose is to build young men. We’ve got a great tradition that we started at Atascocita, and we want people to feel it. When they get through playing us, win or lose, we want them to walk off the court knowing they just played Atascocita.”

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