Month: December 2018

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: This week in boys basketball (Dec. 30-Jan. 5)

A second straight holiday week brings a light schedule for area boys basketball teams, but as the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019, all games played become more and more important.

Many Big Country teams have either already started district play or do so this week. And those that won’t be playing league games Friday will be preparing to do so in short order. If you’re a high school basketball fan, there’s a lot to like about this time of year.

Here’s a look at what you can look forward to this week in the Big Country and what you might have missed last week.

Top Upcoming Matchups: It’s tough to call any game played in the first week of January a must-win, but that could be the situation the Abilene High Eagles find themselves in Friday when they host San Angelo Central at 7:30 p.m.

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EVAN REN: This week in girls basketball (Dec. 30-Jan. 5)

With New Year’s Day still approaching, area hoops schedules will remain spotty for a few more days. But there’s ample hoops action approaching for us to take our weekly look at what’s ahead — and what we’ve just left behind. 

Top Upcoming Matchups: Friday will see the Big Country dive headlong into district play, and with that, some old rivalries will quickly come to the forefront. 

Topping that list, will be matchups between 11th-ranked Cisco (19-2) and a solid team from Eastland (15-7) on Friday. The Lady Mavericks will bring some momentum into this game with their archrival, having won their last two games in the Eula tournament, including a 54-41 victory over a good Merkel team.   

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Haskell girls pull away from Lady Pirates for Eula Holiday Classic title

Trailing the tournament hosts 16-13 at halftime of the Eula Holiday Classic girls title game, the Haskell Maidens outscored the Lady Pirates 23-7 over the final two quarters Saturday to claim the championship with a 36-23 victory.

Haskell, which improved to 19-1 with the win, got 10 points from freshman Melody Martinez, nine from Landry Hanson and eight from Delaney Hanson in beating its third consecutive ranked opponent and claiming its second tournament title of the season.

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Merkel rally falls short against Holliday in Eula Holiday Classic third-place game

The Merkel boys rallied a couple of times in the fourth quarter to pull within two possessions of a stout Holliday squad, but ultimately the Eagles were too much for the Badgers in a 46-35 win in the Eula Holiday Classic third-place game.

Trailing 28-15 at halftime and 33-25 heading into the final period, coach B.C. Lee’s team trimmed the deficit to five points (36-31) at the 6:43 mark and to six (41-35) with 2:36 to play. But Holliday answered both runs with one of their own to finish 3-1 at the Classic and improve to 9-4 on the season.

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Anson Lions Club Tournament roundup

In an otherwise difficult tournament for Big Country area teams, it was the Roscoe Plowgirls who emerged with a chance at taking home a championship at the Anson Lions Club Tournament on Friday. 

Unfortunately, they had one rather large roadblock: The fifth-ranked undefeated Vega Lady Longhorns (24-0), who handed Roscoe a 58-22 loss in the title round. 

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Oi! Oi! Oi! Vegimite-wielding Australians come to Anson seeking basketball and BBQ

ANSON — Some unusual sounds were audible in Anson on Thursday and Friday, coming in the form of unified voices, chanting something completely foreign to rural Texas.

How foreign? About 8,400 miles worth.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! … Oi! Oi! Oi! Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! … Oi! Oi! Oi!

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Eula Holiday Classic girls roundup Day 2

The championship game of the Eula Holiday Classic this year is going to be quite the doozy.

Eula, which entered the tournament ranked 15th in Class 1A, will be taking on Class 2A’s fourth-ranked Haskell after the two squads posted semifinal wins on Friday.

The Lady Pirates, who defeated Tolar 56-46 in the quarterfinals Thursday night, downed Christoval 52-41 in Friday’s semifinals to earn their spot in the title game, while the Maidens topped Class 3A No. 17 Colorado City (51-42) and Class 1A No. 12 Hermleigh (57-41) on Friday advance. Eula and Haskell will meet at 5:20 p.m. Saturday to decide the tournament’s championship.

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Eula Holiday Classic boys roundup Day 2

The second day of the Eula Holiday Classic saw several Big Country boys teams fall short of their championship aspirations on Friday afternoon.

The host Pirates, Colorado City and Jim Ned all lost in the quarterfinals, while Merkel fell in the semifinals.

The Badgers, who beat Childress 65-61 in the quarterfinals Thursday before losing 41-32 to Tolar in Friday’s semifinals, will now face Holliday in the third-place game at 4 p.m. Saturday and are guaranteed the best finish of any area boys team. 

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Eula Holiday Classic girls roundup Day 1

The Eula girls basketball team picked up a pair of wins over Clyde and Tolar on Thursday to move into this afternoon’s semifinals of the annual Eula Holiday Classic.

Eula had an opening round 46-34 win over Clyde before closing the opening day’s action by knocking off the Lady Rattlers 56-46.

The Lady Pirates will be joined in the semifinals by Christoval, a 50-49 quarterfinal winner over Eastland.

Eastland started the tournament with a 15-point win over Ballinger (41-26) before the narrow loss.

Christoval scored eight points in the final minute — including a buzzer-beater to win — to rally from a seven-point deficit to win.

Eastland coach Patrick Blount was disappointed in the final score, but said it didn’t change anything that his team had done all day.

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Eula Holiday Classic boys roundup Day 1

The opening day of the annual Eula Holiday Classic got off to a high-scoring start on Thursday with several close games and others that were more lopsided.

Holliday, Childress, Martins Mill and Jim Ned were the top-scoring squads in the first round of the tournament, advancing to the championship side of the 16-team tournament.

The Eagles rolled to an easy 90-32 win over Breckenridge in the day’s fourth game, while the Bobcats followed up with an 89-37 mauling of Brady.

Martins Mill had no issues in posting an 83-36 win over Early in the final game of the opening round.

While not putting up as many points as those three, Jim Ned had the most stifling defensive effort of the day in a 76-30 win over Christoval.

The host Pirates opened the day’s action with a 43-30 win over Eastland and then fell 47-46 Thursday night in the quarterfinals in a thriller against Tolar. The Rattlers were in the quarterfinals after a 60-36 win over Clyde earlier in the day.

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FEATURE: Energy, effort, belief fuel Cuffy’s emergence for Abilene High

When Donte Cuffy elected to skip his senior football season to focus solely on basketball, it was a difficult choice. It was also a somewhat surprising one.

Football had been his primary sport growing up, and he was on his way to significant playing time for the Abilene High Eagles at defensive end last year before having his junior season cut short by a broken left foot. So his decision to give up the gridiron for the hardwood, where he was a member of the AHS junior varsity as a junior, may have seemed puzzling to some.

But with the senior season Cuffy is putting together for first-year Eagle coach Justin Reese, it’s hard to argue with the results. Averaging 10 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 assists per game this year, the 6-foot-4 forward has been one of AHS’ most productive players.

And the energy he brings to the court each and every game has been every bit as vital to the Eagles’ success as the numbers.

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BCP Podcast Greatest Hits Part 1: Evan, Daniel revisit conversations with Slaughter, Huston, Cervetto

With Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood taking a two-week break from the Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to celebrate the holidays, we take a look back at three of our favorite interviews from the first six months of our weekly podcast.

In Part 1 of our two-part “Greatest Hits” series, we revisit our conversations with current Wall defensive coordinator and former Clyde and Sweetwater head football coach Craig Slaughter, legendary Brownwood broadcaster Dallas Huston and Dublin football coach Bob Cervetto.

We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

PHOTO GALLERY: Evan Ren’s Top 100 football photos for 2018

FEATURED SCHOOLS: Albany, Anson, Baird, Breckenridge, Brock, Brownwood, Clyde, Coahoma, Colorado City, Comanche, Cross Plains, Dublin, Eastland, Forsan, Hamlin, Haskell, Jim Ned, Merkel, Snyder, Stamford, Stephenville, Wall and Winters.

Photos may be purchased for $7 each by pushing the small shopping cart emblem below the lower right corner of the gallery.

This week in girls basketball (Dec. 23-29)

Top Upcoming Matchups: With teams across Texas enjoying a five-day holiday break, this week’s Big Country action doesn’t begin until Dec. 27. And nowhere in the area will things get more heated than in the 16-team bracket in the always-tough Eula Holiday Classic.

Several of the Big Country’s top small-school girls teams will take part in the event, including fourth-ranked Class 2A Haskell (15-1) and an uber-athletic, albeit unranked team from Stamford (13-6).

No. 19 Colorado City (12-3) will be there, as will other Class 3A toughies from Merkel (14-8), Eastland (12-4) and Ballinger (11-7). 

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This week in boys basketball (Dec. 23-29)

Top Upcoming Matchups: With teams enjoying a mandatory five-day break for the holidays, we’ve got a back-loaded schedule this week. But that’s not to say it’s an uninteresting one.

In fact, with holiday tournaments scheduled throughout the state, including a few right here in the Big Country, it is anything but.

Headlining that list are the Eula Holiday Classic, Brownwood’s Texas Bank Holiday Classic and the Anson Lions Club Holiday Tournament, which combined will feature more than 20 Big Country boys basketball teams. 

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2018 State Championship Roundup

ARLINGTON — It seems like just yesterday that the Big Country Preps era was beginning with the kickoff of the 2018 football season.

As of Saturday night, the football season is over and the Big Country saw one champion, Strawn.

This year also marked the first time that instant replay was used at the championship games.

All replays were initiated from the replay booth and it was used 22 times in 12 games with the call on the field being overturned on 14 occasions.

The first replay review went Strawn’s way as it overturned an illegal touching call on an onside kick and allowed the Greyhounds to keep possession and sparked a 45-point rule win.

If you were not one of the 228,285 people that made it to AT&T Stadium to take in any of the four days of action, here’s a recap of what you missed.

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GAME STORY: Huckabay too much for Rising Star in doubleheader sweep

RISING STAR — This had all the warning signs of a trap game for Huckabay. Going on the road to take on a Rising Star team with a winning record, this was one the No. 11 Lady Indians who are in a three-way race for the district crown against No. 5 Lipan and No. 24 Gorman.

Fortunately for Huckabay, its press defense and fast-break offense were too much for the Lady Cats to handle as the Lady Indians cruised to a 45-17 victory.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High basketball teams swept at Hurst Bell

HURST — For three quarters on Friday night at Blue Raider Gymnasium, the Abilene High girls basketball team looked poised to pull off a massive upset.

Hurst Bell entered the District 3-6A contest at 18-1 overall and 3-0 in district, but it was AHS that was in the cat bird’s seat, holding a 39-34 lead after three quarters.

The fourth quarter was a different story as Class 6A’s 23rd-ranked Lady Raiders steamed past the Lady Eagles for a 60-48 win.

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GAME STORY: Merkel girls, boys sweep Anson (w/photo gallery, box scores, video)

MERKEL — Though Merkel High School didn’t run a “Defensive Night” promotion for Friday’s doubleheader with Anson, it could have. 

Sweeping AHS in a girls/boys doubleheader at the MHS gym, Merkel took the girls game 54-24 behind a stifling effort on the defensive end. The Merkel Boys completed the sweep in Game 2 (38-21), compensating for cold early shooting by limiting the Tigers to just seven first-half points. 

The lesson on defense, however, began in the girls game, during which the Lady Badgers forced Anson into double-digit turnovers before halftime. 

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Merkel girls, boys sweep Anson (w/photo gallery, box scores, video)”

GAME STORY: Wylie girls bounce back with hard-fought win over Brownwood

 BROWNWOOD — The Wylie girls basketball team got off to a slow start offensively against Brownwood’s signature zone on Friday, but a 20-10 run through the second quarter fueled the Lady Bulldogs to a 48-36 win over their former district rival.

Coach Amy Powell’s team trailed 6-0 three minutes in and scored just four points through the game’s first seven minutes, but it was able to close the period on a 5-0 run, getting a 3-pointer from Kalilah Modest to take its first lead at 9-6.

That paved the way for a dominant second quarter that proved to be the difference in the outcome.

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FEATURE: Cisco boys motivated by football disappointment

CISCO — Had things evolved the way many expected, the Cisco Loboes would have been playing for a state football championship this week. Or at the very least, only be a week or two removed from dragging the basketballs out of the equipment room. 

It didn’t work out that way. 

Entering the football playoffs with a 9-0 record and perhaps its best team in four years, Brent West’s perennial powerhouse fell as a 24-point favorite to a 6-4 Spearman team in the bi-district round. 

A minus-six turnover ratio and an injury to standout running back Stanley Callahan were the primary culprits in the 33-29 upset, which sent shock waves throughout the Big Country. 

It also put Cisco in a situation in which it seldom finds itself: preparing for basketball in mid-November.

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FEATURE: Hard work, growth mark rise for versatile Cooper forward Bailey

Watching Deven Bailey play, one might conclude he’s a natural forward.

The 6-foot-5 Cooper senior plays with a fluidity and skill-level in the high and low post that would take many players a lifetime of work to achieve.

But the apparent ease with which Bailey can take over a game belies a unique and arduous developmental track. In fact, just two years ago, he was a 5-10 guard playing a far different game than the one he dominates with today.

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FEATURE: Roscoe Plowgirls enjoying hoops again

ROSCOE — After a two-year stretch plagued with injuries and inexperience that saw them post a combined record of 12-42, the Roscoe Plowgirls have rediscovered the game of basketball. 

And in the process, the Big Country is rediscovering the Roscoe Plowgirls, who at 9-7, are on pace to win more games this season than the two previous years combined. This, with two key players injured who are both set to return to the lineup after Christmas.

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BCP Podcast No. 27: Evan, Daniel talk hoops, tackle all-state football snubs

In their final Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast of 2018, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood look back at Albany and Brock’s state semifinal losses, take a look at the area players who did — and didn’t — make the Associated Press all-state teams and talk about some of the top boys and girls basketball story lines of the early season. 

BREAKING: Merkel’s White signs with Baylor, becomes Big Country’s latest small-school success story

When it comes to small-school success stories on the collegiate level, the Big Country has a number of notable ones.

There’s Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, who rode outstanding high school careers at Wylie and Jim Ned, respectively, to record-setting college careers at Houston and Texas before earning extended opportunities in the NFL.

There’s Stamford product James Washington, who moved on after back-to-back state titles for the Bulldogs to earn the Biletnikoff award at Oklahoma State as the nation’s top receiver, before being drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Then there’s Munday’s L.J. Collier, a state champion for the Moguls who just wrapped up a senior season at TCU that saw him earn first-team All-Big 12 honors on the defensive line.

If Merkel athlete Jonah White has his way, he’ll be the next on that list.

White, who closed his Badger career this fall with a monster senior season, took the first step toward that goal Tuesday, when he signed a letter of intent to play for coach Matt Rhule and the Baylor Bears in front of a crowd of family and friends in the Merkel High School auditorium.

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GAME STORY: Strawn starts fast and routs Follett for fourth state championship

ARLINGTON — Strawn coach Dewaine Lee put it very succintly.

“You don’t have to, you get to.”

That mentality led the Greyhounds to their second consecutive state championship — and fourth since 2008 — as Strawn knocked off Follett 48-0 at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday to claim the Class 1A Division II crown.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Strawn starts fast and routs Follett for fourth state championship”

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper boys too much for Brownwood

The Cooper boys basketball team proved too strong for Brownwood on Tuesday, outscoring the Lions 21-6 in the first quarter and cruising from there to a 67-41 win in a nondistrict game at Cougar Gym.

Noah Garcia led a list of three Cougar players in double figures, finishing with a game-high 18 points, while Ben Thmpson followed with 13 and Deven Bailey scored 11.

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