The El Campo Ricebirds basketball program for the last two years had been the worst in district play, finishing alone in last place.
While the Ricebirds 2019-2020 district season wasn’t a triumphant return to the playoffs, they did grow and they weren’t the worst team in the district. El Campo and Sealy both finished 1-11 in District 26. The finish was meaningful to a team riding a 30-plus game losing streak in the district.
El Campo’s district is one of the toughest in the state. Both Wharton and Stafford, who are in the Ricebirds’ district, had deep runs in the playoffs. Stafford made it to the state tournament before the UIL suspended competition.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Ricebirds Coach Chris Burrow said. “Seeing freshmen through juniors, knowing what I’m going to have next year, I think we’ve established the groundwork for good things to come.”
The Ricebirds lose two vital seniors, in guard Tanner Oldag and do-everything guard Deshard Owens, but the team counted on a lot of key underclassmen throughout the season.
“We started three sophomores and two juniors for a couple of games, that makes me believe we’re just going to keep getting better,” Burrow said. “Knowing what some of the other district teams had left, I don’t know if they’re going to be able to boost themselves back up. I think we’re going to be right in the mix next year.”
The Ricebirds will be in a new district for the next two seasons, away from Stafford, Fulshear - now a 5A school, and Needville. El Campo will still have to play Wharton, Brookshire Royal and Sealy, along with Bellville and Navasota as part of the new District 24.
El Campo had an up and down year, but the nine wins, most coming in non-district play, was the most they’ve had since the 2016-2017 season. Key players coming back next season were able to get a lot of playing time and experienced wins, something none of them had the year before.
Sophomore point guard Isaiah Anderson ran the offense and was a captain, in his second year on varsity. Sophomore wing Trinceton Foley had his first varsity experience and found himself using his length to defend opposing teams’ best players. Junior post Reagan Spenrath was a force inside and was missed when he wasn’t in the game. Late in the year, El Campo brought up sophomore Caiden Herzik who held his own on the court. Charles Shorter who was a big contributor two years ago as a sophomre missed the whole season with a football injury.
“(Hopefully) they’ll keep building that experience,” Burrow said.