Boys’ basketball: Friendswood conquers adversity along way to playoffs
When Caleb Marburger unexpectedly inherited the reins of the Friendswood varsity boys’ basketball team in mid-December, the Mustangs were in the midst of a whirlwind.
Head coach Cliff Owens had just resigned and, well, the state of the squad was tenuous at best.
Any fragility, though, has mended through no shortage of hard work and a new-found dedication.
Two months into Marburger’s leadership, Friendswood has fashioned a 21-12 record and has reached the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
The latest installment in the Mustangs’ resurgence came Tuesday night when Friendswood defeated Nederland, 55-51, in overtime. That victory rewards the Mustangs with a 7 p.m., Friday matchup with Houston Madison at Pearland High School.
“I know there were a lot of people who kind of thought this season was lost right around the Christmas break,” Marburger said. “The unity the guys have shown, and realizing that all 12 of them can come together and win any game has been huge.
“They’ve bought into all the things we’ve talked about including being selfless and playing for each other.”
In the win over Nederland, Friendswood connected on six 3-pointer in the opening quarter in taking an 18-15 lead. By halftime, the Mustangs had sunk eight treys in building a 28-22 cushion.
Nederland, though, fought back and closed the gap to a 39-38 by the end of the third quarter and then forced overtime at 48-48.
Friendswood proved to be the more composed of the squads in the extra session in earning the win.
“It was a situation that our kids had been in a couple of times this year, so it wasn’t too big for them,” Marburger said. “They obviously made some plays and got some stops when we needed in able to get the win.
“Ian Bivins (senior guard) was huge in the second half. He had a team-high 18 points, 15 in the second half and overtime. He’s been our leader since district started, and he continued in that role (Tuesday night).
“Hudson Bockart hit a couple of big free throws with five or six seconds left to put us up four which kind of iced the game.”
While Friendswood’s offense was on fire early against Nederland, that wasn’t the case in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Scoring wasn’t our forte down the stretch, it was defense,” Marburger said. “That’s been our calling card the last few weeks…getting rebounds and making key stops.
“We were also able to play at the pace we wanted. We were able to walk the ball up. We stressed getting the ball in the paint and getting good shots. The kids executed it, and that was awesome.”
Now the task for Friendswood becomes more challenging in a totally different manner. The Mustangs take on a Madison team which out-raced Manvel, 89-80, in bi-district.
“We’ll have to do a very good job of controlling the ball,” Marburger said. “We can’t try to do what they do. They want you to get out of sync and turn the ball over.
“We’re going to have to be very poised and disciplined. We can’t get caught up in a track meet with them.”
Marburger said the team’s growing confidence has been evident as the season has progressed.
“We had some struggles with shooting and taking care of the ball, but with a couple of wins here and a couple of wins there that confidence grew.
“Even when we were down four or five (against Nederland), my confidence never wavered because I felt we had the kids to get the job done. They’ve been in those situations, and you could see the positive body language. Even the kids on the bench were staying the course.
“It was just a total team effort.”