Lady Bobcats basketball team earns top spot in district, first time in 31 years

The young ladies that make up the Hull-Daisetta varsity girls basketball team are history makers for the district. For the first time in 31 years, the team won first place in District.

By Vanesa Brashier,

The Hull-Daisetta Varsity Girls Basketball Team is having a banner year. The Lady Bobcats are on a 16-game winning streak and are in first place in District 24-2A.

“For Hull-Daisetta to finish first in district, that hasn’t been done in 31 years,” said Head Coach Jeff Martin, who is in his fifth year of coaching at Hull-Daisetta ISD.

Coincidentally, the last time the Lady Bobcats finished first in District was the same year that Coach Martin was born.

“We went 8-0 in district, undefeated. That was an accomplishment in itself. The last game clinched it for us. It was senior night and on the home court, so that’s how it worked out for us,” the coach said.

The Lady Bobcats now advance to Bi-District. If the girls win that round, they will move on to the Area round and then the Regional Quarterfinals.

“We have actually made it to the second round of the playoffs the last two years. After that round, we hope to move on to the Regional Quarterfinals. Hull-Daisetta has made it to that point in the past but it’s been some time,” Martin said.

The team is comprised of three seniors, Gabrielle Lavine, Bailey Luke and Dacey Simmons; two juniors, Lauren Hickman and Autumn Champagne; and three freshmen, Samantha Rose, Jada Lee and Ashley Fregia.

It is a small pool of players, but Martin says that is often the case with small districts like Hull-Daisetta.

“We only have 26 girl athletes at the high school and only eight on the varsity girls basketball team,” Martin said. “It can be especially challenging if the upper classmen get tired. We really can’t afford for anyone to get injured or sick. We had one kid twist her ankle and missed two games. When we went to Deweyville, we barely beat them because it hurt us to have a starter out.”

With a small team, however, players have more court time and opportunities to build their skills.

The three seniors also are the team captains. Martin says the seniors are good leaders and help mentor the younger players.

“It’s been a huge help having them, to be able to show the young kids what they need to do on the court,” he said.

Martin says Gabrielle Lavine is the team’s equivalent of a quarterback. As point guard, she sets up her team for plays.

“She is able to control the ball and handle pressure. She keeps us in a good spot to run offense,” he said.

Bailey Luke, the team’s center, might not have the spotlight on her because she does not make the most scores, but Martin said everything she does – rebounding, steals and assists – works toward the team’s success.

“When the freshmen are out there on the court, she tries to get them in the right place to do the right stuff. She is like a coach on the court and it’s really cool to watch her,” he said.

Dacey Simmons is the leading scorer for the team as power forward.

“She is our most well-rounded player. She rebounds well. She blocks a lot of shots, around 3-4 a game. She pretty much does everything we need her to do. Whatever is needed, she does it,” Martin said.

Junior Lauren Hickman is a small forward who the coach says is the best shooter from outside the midrange.

“She makes the defense have to come out to play her. She is the tallest player. She doesn’t have to be the star. She just does her job and does it well. She plays hard,” the coach said. “There are games where she will play out of her mind. She scored 26 points in a single game this season.”

Shooting guard and junior Autumn Champagne is the team’s motor, the coach says.

“Autumn is the fastest kid on the court. She plays the front of our press. There is never a break for her position, but she just keeps going,” he said.

Samantha Rose is the team’s “Swiss Army Knife,” according to Coach Martin.

“Anything we need, she is the first person I call on when someone gets tired. She is wise beyond her years. She is very smart and understands the game,” the coach said. “She may not be the fastest player on the team but she makes smart plays.”

Jada Lee is the most athletic member of the team, Martin says.

“She and Autumn are very similar in that way. Typically she plays small forward or shooter. She jumps really high and runs fast,” he said. “She is very athletic compared to most kids.”

Ashley Fregia, a small forward or shooting guard, started out on the junior varsity team but was moved up because her skills were needed on the varsity team.

“She can be a fireball on the court. Shooting is not her forte but she made a three-pointer in the game the other night. She had to step up because other players had fouls,” Martin said.

The coach is optimistic that the team will continue its winning streak, but he is not taking any chances.

“I wouldn’t say I am a superstitious person but I wear the exact same jacket every game. My pastor is a coach at Northshore. He said, ‘Dude, you need to dress more casual.’ I told him I wasn’t going to ditch the jacket just yet,” Martin said.

The assistant coach for the team is Coach Martin’s wife, Megan. Together they share the leadership of the girls volleyball, girls basketball and girls track teams.

“This is the best team I’ve had as a core. I’ve had deeper teams that could play more experienced minutes, but these girls complement each other well,” Martin said. “Our second round in the playoffs will be tough but this is the first year that we actually have a chance of winning that second round game. It’s fun to see them grow and be a part of the success they are having.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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