Author: Daniel Youngblood

GAME STORY: Lubbock Monterey cruises past Abilene High for doubleheader sweep

A slow start doomed the Abilene High boys basketball team Wednesday against District 4-5A leader Lubbock Monterey, which scored the first 12 points and 18 of the first 20 in a 64-39 win at Eagle Gym.

The Eagles, who fell to 10-14 overall and 2-5 in league play with the loss, didn’t get on the board until the final seconds of the first quarter, when Sawyer Moss’ layup cut the Plainsmen’s lead to 12-2. But that was as close as AHS would get the rest of the way as Monterey opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run and pushed its lead to 35-11 by the opening minute of the second half.

The lopsided affair closed a forgettable doubleheader for Abilene High, which saw its girls defeated 79-25 by the top-ranked Lady Plainsmen in the evening’s early game.

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GAME STORY: Wylie boys win wild one at Cooper; fast start fuels Lady Cougars past Lady Bulldogs

About a second passed between the time Kam Gray’s game-tying 3-point attempt first banged off the rim and when it finally came back down to the basket. But it felt like much longer for those in attendance — and especially those on each bench. 

With his team trailing crosstown rival Wylie by three points and just over seven seconds remaining, the Cooper guard raced down the court and launched a shot from just in front of the CHS coaching staff. The high-arcing heave, which was on target but a little long, bounced high off the rim and came down over the cylinder, but after clanging off both sides of the rim it fell harmlessly to the floor, preserving a 62-59 win for the visiting Bulldogs.

The closing sequence was fitting end for a wild game that almost saw Cooper erase an eight-point deficit in the final 48.6 seconds.

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GAME STORY: Cooper boys stay hot with win at Abilene High; Lady Eagles rally for first district victory

Riding a three-game winning streak into its first matchup with rival Abilene High, the Cooper boys basketball team stayed hot Friday night, closing out the first half of District 4-5A play with a 50-41 win in front of a packed house at Eagle Gym.

The victory, which improved the Cougars to 14-8 overall and 5-1 in league play, kept CHS just a game back of district leader Lubbock Monterey (18-8, 6-0) and completed an exciting night of basketball that saw Abilene High edge the Lady Coogs 51-50 in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.

Leading just 32-31 at the end of three quarters, coach Bryan Conover’s squad pulled away in the fourth, outscoring the Eagles 18-10 over the final eight minutes to close out the win and set up a big home matchup with Wylie on Tuesday.

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THIS WEEK IN BOYS BASKETBALL: Rivalry matchups headline Tuesday, Friday slate

As we continue to roll toward February, we’re learning more each week about our area’s teams and district races. That trend should certainly continue this week, which features a number of rivalry games among its key matchups.

Here’s what we have on the Big Country boys basketball slate for Tuesday on Friday. 

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FEATURE: Steady Abilene High senior Breckenridge a calming force for young Eagles

With a game that’s more substance than style, and a quiet, calm demeanor, Abilene High senior Jake Breckenridge has a way of fading into the background at times. 

If you’re not paying attention, it can be easy to miss the many contributions he makes to Eagles basketball on a daily basis.

But if you ask coach Justin Reese, few (if any) players are more important to AHS’ success than Breckenridge, whose steady leadership and production have helped a young team grow up quickly this season.

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GAME STORY: Cooper boys outlast Lubbock Coronado for big district victory

Last week, while hosting Lubbock Monterey in a big District 4-5A matchup, the Cooper boys basketball team couldn’t execute well enough down the stretch to escape a tough home loss. Facing similar circumstances seven days later against Lubbock Coronado, the Cougars found a way.

Coach Bryan Conover’s squad rallied from a 42-39 fourth-quarter deficit Friday at Cougar Gym, going on a 4-0 run over the final 43 seconds to hand the Mustangs a 49-46 loss. 

The thrilling victory pulled Cooper even with Coronado in the district standings at 3-1 — a half-game behind district leader Monterey, which was idle Friday.

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SIGNING DAY: Abilene High volleyball standouts Hernandez, Dolton make college choices official

After helping lead the Abilene High volleyball team to its first playoff berth since 2015 and first region tournament appearance since 2007, two of the Lady Eagles’ top players are set to take their talents to the collegiate level.

Middle blocker Jadyn Hernandez and setter Alexis Dolton both made their college choices official during a signing day ceremony Wednesday at the AHS gym, with Hernandez committing to compete locally for Hardin-Simmons and Dolton pledging to play at Vernon College.

Those announcements, which came on the heels of a transformative season for the AHS volleyball team, mark well-earned opportunities for a pair of players who were instrumental in putting the Lady Eagles back on the map, coach Caroline Cleveland said.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High boys rally for key district win over Lubbock Cooper

Needing a home win over Lubbock Cooper to get back into the thick of the District 4-5A playoff race, the Abilene High boys basketball team didn’t get off the start it wanted to Tuesday at Eagle Gym.

But after going to halftime down 23-13, the Eagles used a 27-point third quarter to wrestle momentum away from the visiting Pirates and held Cooper off from there for a 55-50 victory.

The win pulled AHS (10-11 overall) back to .500 in league play at 2-2, moving coach Justin Reese’s team into the fourth spot in the district standings — a half-game back of crosstown rival Abilene Cooper for third. 

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: This week in Big Country boys basketball (Jan. 8-14)

It’s the second week of January, and basketball district races are heating up throughout the Big Country. The few area boys basketball teams that haven’t started league play will be doing so this week.

With so many important games being played, it’s time to begin our weekly look at what’s going on on the Big Country boys basketball scene. In highlighting the top matchups of the coming week and the top results of the previous one, we’ll let you know the games and teams we’re keeping an eye on — and some you might want to as well.

We hope you enjoy our first installment of This Week in Boys Basketball.

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GAME STORY: Monterey scores final six points to outlast Cooper boys in defensive struggle

On a night when buckets were hard to come by for both teams, the Lubbock Monterey Plainsmen finished with one more than their Cooper counterparts Friday, scoring the final six points in a hard-fought 40-37 win at Cougar Gym.

Cooper, which needed almost four minutes to score to its first points of the game, held a 22-18 lead at halftime and rallied from a third-quarter deficit to go up 37-34 on a Jordan Willis layup with 3:47 to play. But those would be the Cougars’ final points of the night, allowing the visiting Plainsmen to close the night on a run and escape with a three-point victory.

After a turnover spoiled CHS’ penultimate possession, the Coogs had one final chance when Monterey missed the front end of a one-and-one up 40-37 with just over four seconds remaining in the game. But Jaelyn Rivera’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer banged off the rim and out, eliciting an gasp from those in attendance. 

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TEXAS BANK HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Wylie, Goldthwaite boys claim tournament titles; Albany edges Coleman for third place

BROWNWOOD — The Wylie and Goldthwaite boys basketball teams both left the Texas Bank Holiday Classic with championship trophies, completing 4-0 runs through the tournament Friday to claim the large and small school titles, respectively.

After opening the Classic with lopsided pool play victories over Brady (94-31) and Early (56-36), Wylie picked up competitive wins over Gatesville (67-54) and Little River Academy (54-45) on Friday at Brownwood Coliseum to earn its championship.

The Goldthwaite boys, meanwhile, followed blowout victories over Sidney (67-38) and Santo (61-34) with thrilling final-day wins over Coleman (52-50) and Wellington (64-56) to clinch their title.

That capped a three-day tournament that also saw Albany top Coleman 56-50 for third place in the small school boys division and Fort Worth Nolan Catholic defeat Fort Worth Lake Country Christian (65-61) and Goldthwaite (55-33) to earn the girls crown.

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EULA HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Stamford girls rout Hermleigh to get back to tournament title game

EULA — One of three Big Country teams to reach the semifinal round of the Eula Holiday Classic, the Stamford girls basketball team was the lone area squad to advance to Friday’s title game, defeating Hermleigh 60-29 on Thursday to earn the opportunity to defend its 2021 tournament title.

The Lady Bulldogs, who edged Holliday for the Classic championship last year, will try go for the repeat Friday when they take on Whiteface, which downed Eula 46-31 in Thursday’s other semifinal.

That matchup is set for 2:40 p.m. Friday, while Hermleigh and Eula will play for third place at 10:40 a.m.

No area team reached the semifinals on the boys side of the tournament, which will feature a championship matchup between Holliday and Tolar at 4 p.m. Friday and a third-place game between New Deal and Bells at noon.

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EULA HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Hermleigh, Stamford and Eula girls punch ticket to semis on tournament’s first day

EULA — Big Country girls basketball programs made a strong showing on the opening day of the Eula Holiday Classic, placing three teams in Thursday’s championship bracket semifinals, while preserving the chance of an all-area championship picture. 

Hermleigh, Stamford and Eula all won a pair of games Wednesday to advance to the tournament’s penultimate round, while Breckenridge won its only game of the day to earn a Thursday morning matchup with Whiteface for the final spot in the semifinals.

Hermleigh and Stamford will play at 4 p.m. Thursday for a spot in Friday’s championship game, while Eula will take on the Breckenridge-Whiteface winner at 6:40 p.m. to decide the other title game participant.

On the boys side, meanwhile, Colorado City, Clyde and Jim Ned all remain alive with a chance to advance to the semifinals Thursday — each winning its only game Wednesday to remain in position to advance in the championship bracket.

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GAME STORY: Cooper boys outlast Wylie to earn 44-39 win in defensive slugfest

It wasn’t the prettiest game the Cooper boys basketball team will play all year, but the result was just what the Cougars were looking for in their District 4-5A opener against crosstown rival Wylie.

After taking a 13-11 lead into halftime and going into the fourth quarter tied at 25, CHS outscored the Bulldogs 19-14 over the final eight minutes Tuesday to escape Bulldog Gym with a 44-39 victory in a game that even coach Bryan Conover as a “rock fight.”

But the win sends the Coogs into the holiday break at 8-6 overall and 1-0 in district play, which made the ugly win seem a little prettier after the fact.

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GAME STORY: Speights’ big fourth quarter fuels Cooper past rival Wylie

Trailing crosstown rival Wylie 33-32 heading into the final quarter, the Cooper girls basketball team needed a spark to get to the finish line with a win Tuesday at Bulldog Gym.

Enter standout senior Kyla Speights.

After being limited to just six points through the first three quarters, the talented point guard exploded for 13 points in the fourth — including two big 3-pointers and a three-point play in rapid succession — to fuel the Lady Cougars to 52-41 victory.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Even without fairytale ending, Brock’s 2022 season a great story

For large portions of Thursday’s Class 3A Division I state championship game Thursday, it appeared the contest would serve as a microcosm of Brock’s season.

The Eagles missed some opportunities early and fell behind before halftime only to claw their way back into the game and give themselves a chance at the ultimate prize at the end.

Unfortunately for BHS, this story didn’t have a fairytale ending.

After rallying twice to tie Franklin at 7 and 14, the Eagles watched Lions kicker Cort Lowry drill a 20-yard field goal as time expired to give his team a 17-14 win. Instead of coming all the way back from an 0-4 start to close the season with 12 straight wins and a state championship, Brock had to settle for a second consecutive state runner-up finish.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Hawley’s Cumpton, Bearcat teammates turned last year’s heartbreak into triumph

No one had to tell Hawley running back Austin Cumpton what he missed last year when he was unable to play in the Bearcats’ first-ever state championship game.

In street clothes for that one after fracturing a pair of vertebrae a few weeks earlier, the then-junior witnessed it firsthand as his teammates fell 47-12 to Shiner.

To say that experience was a motivator a year later — for both Cumpton and the Bearcats — might be an understatement. And healthy as a senior, Hawley’s 6-foot-1, 225-pound bowling ball back and his brothers made good on their mission of returning to AT&T Stadium and finishing the job this time.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Albany players were determined to get Faith first state title

ARLINGTON — When you’ve coached in the same place for 41 years and had the success Denney Faith has in Albany, you tend to garner broad support.

And when the only thing missing from your legendary career is the ultimate prize — a Texas state championship — summiting that mountain can become a community effort.

Such was certainly the case Wednesday for Faith, whose Lions routed favored Mart 41-21 at AT&T Stadium for the Class 2A Division II crown. And as one might expect in such a situation, a key piece of the Albany players’ motivation was getting their longtime coach a ring.

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 17)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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