The University Interscholastic League offered basketball teams that had qualified for but not yet completed their respective State Tournaments a sense of closure last week, advising schools and coaches that they would be receiving special recognitions for their accomplishments.
The UIL’s decision caps what had been a rollercoaster of emotions for head coach Jake Bell and the Martins Mill Mustangs. After a loss in last year’s 2A State Semifinals, the Mustangs hit the ground running this season with a perfect 34-0 run through the regular season.
Excluding a 2-0 forfeit win over Cumby, Martins Mill had just one win during the regular season by less than 11 points (a 58-53 win against a 3A Childress squad that finished the year with a 27-6 record and an appearance in the Regional Quarterfinals).
The Mustangs would add victories over Trenton, Clarksville, Bogota Rivercrest, Alvord and McLeod in the playoffs to run their record to 39-0 and set up a contest against San Saba in the 2A State Semifinals, but less than 24 hours before the 2A Semifinals were set to be played the UIL announced an indefinite suspension of the State Championships due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The UIL issued several press releases in the interim before announcing the cancellation of all remaining spring activities and state championships April 17. Pressed on how to deal with the handling of final rankings and state champions for boys basketball, Julia Atkins with the UIL advised that plans were still in the process of being finalized.
The wait for coaches and student-athletes came to an end less than two weeks later with the UIL sending out messages to affected teams April 28 explaining, “While the UIL will not be crowning UIL boys basketball state champions this year, each remaining team will be recognized with a virtual awards presentation and will be receiving a UIL trophy with a ‘UIL State Championships’ inscription, medals and some additional items to help commemorate their accomplishment.”
Martins Mill head coach Jake Bell announced the news on his Facebook page shortly after receiving the UIL’s message stating, “WHAT A DAY!!! THE MUSTANGS OF MARTIN’S MILL are CO-STATE CHAMPIONS. We received the good news from UIL today that the kids will be awarded GOLD STATE CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALS and TROPHY to celebrate their success and all they have accomplished.
“These men are MORE than deserving of this honor and achievement. The sacrifices, the tears, the hustle, the prayers, and most importantly the LOVE this team shares for each other and THE GAME. I could not be more proud or more honored to coach this incredible group of men. NOW LET’S CELEBRATE these kids and their hard work!!!
“Martin’s Mill Mustangs end the 2019-2020 Texas Basketball Season 39-0, #1 ranked team in the state of Texas! #ONE UNIT STRONG #5=1
“To God be the glory!”
Members of the 2019-’20 Martins Mill program included seniors Karson Godwin, Blaine Sigler and Garrett Celsur, juniors Carter Jones, Logan Morrow, Dylan Morrow, Tanner Waynick, Arnold Gutierrez, Christian Moss and Jose Valenzuela and sophomores Colton Powers and Jose Perez.
The Mustangs were coached by Jake Bell and Josh Jones, with support staff (managers, trainers and statisticians) featuring Keagan Godwin, Case Perkins, Riley Reed, Jak Kinder, Amanda Bell, Tina Hilton, Keva Reed, Shad Reed, Tommy Cross, Shaun Parker and Natalia Ruiz.