A new-look District 22-5A will present challenges for Robert E. Lee and Adrian Boston along with fellow Baytown schools Ross S. Sterling and Goose Creek Memorial beginning in the fall. (Photo by Kim Keefer)

With the Monday announcement of the new UIL realignment for the 2020-22 sports cycle comes plenty of challenges for local sports teams.

In basketball, both girls and boys programs will see some new faces and challenges when the winter sports season tips off in November.

Sure, the current season continues, but it doesn’t mean some coaches haven’t taken a minute to look at the new landscape they will walk into a year from now.

In District 22-5A, the three Baytown high schools of Robert E. Lee, Ross. Sterling and Goose Creek Memorial will reside together in the same district for the first time in history and will have to contend with six others for supremacy.

Coming down from Class 6A is La Porte along with Sterling, while current District 22 teams Galveston Ball, Friendswood, Santa Fe and Texas City return with REL and GCM.

Manvel will also come aboard, moving over from District 24-5A.

“I think there are some good things and bad things to this realignment.,” Sterling boys head coach Greg Smith said. “No matter what, it’s nice to finally be away from North Shore for the first time since I’ve been at Sterling, and it will be nice to not be around for Beaumont United’s drop to 5A as well. 

“With the basketball alignment, I was certainly not expecting to see Manvel, which was not a pleasant surprise.”

Smith noted that other than Manvel, the district shook out almost like he expected.

“The rest in that district wasn’t a complete surprise but we were still hoping to get in there with some HISD schools like Wisdom or Milby,” Smith said. “Also, a nine-team district makes the non-district schedule very limited and difficult to create, so that will be a challenge associated with the new district. 

“Overall, any drop from the current district we are in is a blessing, and we hope that all sports will improve.”

GCM boys coach Marcus Ebow is enthused by the changes.

“From top to bottom it is a very competitive district,” Ebow said. “I think with all three GCCISD schools playing each other it provides a great opportunity for the community to be involved in renewing and hopefully keeping rivalries in tact.  For the most part we are very familiar with all the teams in our new district and I think night in and out we will definitely have to play at our best if we want to be in contention for the playoff race.”

Manvel is a force in boys and girls 5A. La Porte is competing better after a weak 2018-19 season.

“Truthfully it doesn’t matter how UIL sets up the alignment at the end of the day you have to lace up your shoes and play the game,” Crosby girls head coach Michelle Trotter said. “Travel to me is the most difficult part of the district change, we already had four games over an hour away, so that didn’t change: we still have four long trips with the new district. 

“I am excited to see how we finish up this season and for the future of this program. All key players will be back next year and with some of the younger kids coming up we should be very competitive for the next few years.” 

District 21-5A will be a better challenge for Barbers Hill. The girls have dominated the last few years while the boys have seen more resistance. United currently remains a top Class 6A basketball program in both boys and girls and joins the Eagles programs with Crosby – who moves over from District 22 along with Galena Park. Nederland, Port Arthur Memorial and Port Neches-Groves stay home in District 21. 

“The new district will be loaded with talented players and teams,” Barbers Hill head coach Chris Pennington said. “There should be three district championship teams – Crosby, PAM and United) from their respective districts from this year as well as six playoff teams out of seven.  We look forward to the tough district as it will make all the teams even better, because you better bring it every night.”

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