Author: Daniel Youngblood

All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Superlatives: Brewer, Medina, Lenard head of 2020 class

Here are our superlative award winners for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: First-Team Roster

Here are our first-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: Second-Team Roster

Here are our second-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: Third-Team Roster (w/ honorable mention)

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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FEATURE: Senior-led AHS, Wylie softball teams still hoping to finish what they’ve started

In a way, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has put everyone on equal footing. Life has effectively been put on hold for adults and students alike, and the only certainty for either group is uncertainty.

This reality has hit close to home for veteran coaches Heather Collier and Jim Reese, whose Wylie Lady Bulldogs and Abilene High Lady Eagles have, in less than two weeks, gone from district title hopefuls to just hoping for a chance to take the field again in 2010.

Like all softball teams in the state of Texas, Wylie and Abilene High are in a holding pattern, adhering to the University Interscholastic League’s suspension of all sanctioned sports, which was extended from March 29 to May 4 on Thursday. But with senior-led teams that were off to outstanding starts, the waiting game’s a little extra painful for Collier and Reese.

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BCP Podcast No. 86: Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel to discuss coronavirus impact on state hoops, spring sports

With Evan Ren at home recovering from a bout with pneumonia and a week-long hospital stay, Big Country Preps contributor Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel Youngblood for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

In this episode, Daniel and Brandon discuss the massive impact the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has had on the Big Country sports scene and country at large. 

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Uncertainty hits home amid coronavirus response

A week ago Monday, my partner Evan Ren and I were sitting down to do interviews with Jayton’s Ryan Bleiker and San Saba’s Mark Kyle for our weekly podcast.

Evan was planning his trip to San Antonio to cover those men’s teams at the University Interscholastic League’s boys basketball state championships, and I was prepping for a baseball tournament that was scheduled to be held here in Abilene over the weekend.

As it turned out, neither of us would reach our destination.

Instead, Evan was hospitalized Tuesday for a case of pneumonia that would put him on the shelf for a week, and most of what I was planning to cover in his stead was canceled or postponed amid growing concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

What a difference a week makes.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Uncertainty hits home amid coronavirus response”

FEATURE: San Saba boys basketball in state limbo amid COVID-19 crisis

Making its first state tournament appearance since 1928, the San Saba boys basketball team was hoping to make a little history this weekend in San Antonio.

This wasn’t the kind of history the Armadillos had in mind.

Coach Mark Kyle’s squad was one of 16 teams across four of Texas’ six public school classifications to have its state semifinal game suspended by the University Scholastic League on Thursday as a result of growing concern over the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

So instead of hitting the Alamodome court on Friday against top-ranked and undefeated Martin’s Mill, the Dillos were hitting the road back home, uncertain if they’d ever get to punctuate one of the greatest seasons in program history.

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STATE RECAP: Jayton boys fall to Slidell in 1A semis; competition suspended over coronavirus concerns

SAN ANTONIO — Jayton’s season didn’t end the way the No. 8 Jaybirds wanted it to Thursday morning, but at least the JHS boys basketball team got to take the court at the Alamodome.

Coach Ryan Bleiker’s squad fell 45-28 to No. 5 Slidell in the second of two Class 1A state semifinal games — one of just four contests completed before the University Interscholastic League suspended action on the 2020 boys basketball state tournament as a response to concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

That means that San Saba’s Class 2A semifinal against top-ranked Martin’s Mill, originally slated for 8:30 a.m. Friday, will not be played as scheduled, if completed at all.

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FEATURE: Multi-sport experience, success at heart Jayton’s confidence, poise

Between the No. 1 ranking they held for most of the 2019 football season and the target that comes with being a defending state runner-up in basketball, the Jayton Jaybirds have played more pressure-packed games this school year than some programs do in a decade. 

But when you’ve been as successful as the JHS athletic program has been in recent years, you grow accustomed to the big stage.

So if coach Ryan Bleiker’s Jaybirds don’t seem as nervous as they should heading into their second consecutive appearance at the Class 1A boys basketball state tournament in San Antonio, you’ll have to excuse them. This group of Jayton athletes has been groomed for moments such as these.

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BCP Podcast No. 85: Jayton’s Bleiker, San Saba’s Kyle talk state hoops with Evan, Daniel

Jayton boys basketball coach Ryan Bleiker has led the Jaybirds to their second state tournament appearance in as many years. San Saba’s Mark Kyle has led the Armadillos to their first state trip since 1928.

Earlier this week, both men took a few minutes to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about the challenge their teams face for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel recap last week’s boys basketball regionals.

BOYS BASKETBALL STATE PREVIEW: San Saba looks to continue dream season against unbeaten Martin’s Mill

It’s been 92 years since San Saba last played in a boys basketball state tournament, and few expected coach Mark Kyle’s Armadillos to do so this year.

But after completing a remarkable and unexpected run through Region IV-2A, the Dillos are hoping to add a few more memories to what’s already been an unforgettable campaign.

Standing between them and a potential state championship is a semifinal matchup with undefeated Martin’s Mill (39-0) at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. And though they enter that game as heavy underdogs, the San Saba boys are excited for yet another opportunity to prove people wrong.

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BOYS BASKETBALL STATE PREVIEW: No. 8 Jayton prepped for state rematch with defending champ Slidell

After making their first state tournament appearance last March and coming within a single win of their first state title, the Jayton Jaybirds will have a chance to finish the job this year.

But fresh off a grueling run through the Region II-1A bracket, JHS will face another stiff test in their 2020 state opener. Standing between the No. 8 Jaybirds and the Class 1A crown is a semifinal matchup with the defending state champion and fifth-ranked Slidell Greyhounds — a team with which coach Ryan Bleiker and his players are quite familiar.

It was Slidell that ended Jayton’s championship hopes last year, defeating the Jaybirds 49-36 in the 2019 title game. Bleiker and Co. are intent on reversing that outcome when the teams meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, but the coach knows that won’t be easy.

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LOCAL BASEBALL ROUNDUP: Wylie, Cooper fall to open league play

ALEDO — The Wylie baseball team opened District 4-5A play with a tough 3-2 road loss to Aledo, seeing 2-0 lead evaporate over the final four innings.

The Bulldogs scored single runs in the first and third innings to go up early, but the Bearcats trimmed the lead to one run in the fourth before completing the rally with a two-run sixth.

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LOCAL SOFTBALL ROUNDUP: Cooper routs Wichita Falls to open district, AHS wins again

WICHITA FALLS — The Cooper softball team opened District 4-5A play in dominant fashion Tuesday, routing Wichita Falls High 12-2 in five innings to improve to 8-4 on the season.

With the game tied at 2 after one inning, the Lady Cougars exploded for four runs in the second inning and five in the third before putting the run-rule into effect with one in the top of the fifth.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Multi-talented AHS star Roberson takes top spot

Abilene High junior Trakenya (KK) Roberson is probably best known for her work on the basketball court, where she’s been weaving through defenses for one layup after another since she was a freshman. 

But this speedy standout’s skills aren’t confined to the hardwood. She’s also an excellent softball player where she serves as a starting outfielder and leadoff hitter for the 15-4 Lady Eagles.

Last week, she put her many talents on display in leading AHS to four wins in six games, earning Big Country Preps Player of the Week honors in the process. 

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GAME RECAP: San Saba tops Normangee, earns first trip to state tournament

SAN MARCOS — The San Saba Armadillos are headed to the state tournament in boys basketball for the first time in school history.

Less than 24 hours after getting a late steal and bucket to pull off a 55-54 win over Weimar in the Region IV-2A semifinals, the Armadillos downed Normangee 49-35 to claim their first region title and earn a trip to San Antonio next week for the Class 2A state tournament.

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GAME RECAP: Martinez’s late heroics fuel San Saba past Weimar, into IV-2A final

SAN MARCOS — Trailing 54-53 with four seconds remaining Friday, it appeared the San Saba boys basketball team would see its season end with a heartbreaking loss to Weimar in the Region IV-2A semfinals.

Abel Martinez had different ideas.

The senior forward stole the ball and hit a layup with 1.2 seconds remaining to lift San Saba to a thrilling 55-54 win over the Wildcats and earn the Armadillos a spot in Saturday’s IV-2A championship game against Normangee (29-5).

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GAME STORY: No. 5 Slidell too much for Eula boys in Region III-1A semifinals

MANSFIELD — Eula boys basketball coach Josh Fostel knew a fast start would be key if his team was going to have any hope of knocking off the defending state champion Slidell Greyhounds in Friday’s Region III-1A semifinal at Mansfield Legacy High School.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, what they got was the opposite.

Falling behind 16-1 after a quarter, ninth-ranked Eula was never able to recover in a 58-33 loss to No. 5 Slidell, falling to the Greyhounds in the same round for the second consecutive season. 

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GAME STORY: No. 7 Paducah ends Hermleigh boys historic run

No. 7 Paducah proved too much for the Hermleigh boys Tuesday night, routing the Cardinals 66-29 in a Region II-1A quarterfinal at McMurry’s Kimbrel Arena. But the loss didn’t diminish the positive steps coach Kia McCarty’s squad made this season.

Finishing at 17-14 with their first two playoff wins since 1907, the Cardinals experienced historic success in McCarty’s first season as a head coach.

And following the game, after giving the Dragons the credit they earned with Tuesday’s victory, it was that fact the coach wanted to focus on.

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GAME STORY: No. 7 Hermleigh comes up inches short against Veribest in II-1A final

The Hermleigh Lady Cardinals’ bid for their third consecutive state tournament berth came up just short Saturday night at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum. Literally.

With her team trailing Veribest by two points in the waning seconds of the the Region II-1A championship game, standout forward Makia Gonzales fired off a 3-pointer from the wing, hoping to earn her team one more trip to San Antonio before closing her stellar high school career.

The shot was on-line, but unfortunately for the Lady Cardinals, it was just a couple of inches short, bouncing off the front rim and out, allowing the Lady Falcons to secure a 27-25 victory and clinch their first state tournament berth in school history.

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GAME STORY: Hermleigh pulls away from Blackwell, Veribest tops Aspermont in II-1A semis

The Hermleigh and Veribest girls basketball teams will meet for the Region II-1A championship on Saturday after each earned victories in the semifinals Friday at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum.

No. 23 Veribest (26-10) punched its ticket first, holding off Aspermont 49-43 in Friday’s early game, before seventh-ranked Hermleigh pulled away in the second half for a 43-27 win over No. 16 Blackwell.

The Lady Falcons and Lady Cardinals will now face off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Moody for a spot in the Class 1A state tournament, slated for Sept. 5-7 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Utility Players

After recognizing the Big Country’s top pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders, we wrap up our baseball position rankings series with the area’s multi-position standouts.

For the final installment in our five-part series, we take a look at the top utility players, ranking our top-six with others to watch in 2020.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these lists and are as excited as we are that baseball season is underway.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Outfielders

For Day 4 of our five-part baseball position rankings series, we focus our binoculars on the outfield grass.

After highlighting the Big Country’s top pitchers, catchers and infielders earlier this week, we now do the same with the area’s best outfielders, ranking our top 10 with others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy our list.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Infielders

After ranking  the top pitchers and catchers on the Big Country baseball scene the past two nights, we now turn our attention to the infield.

For the third installment in our five-part position rankings series, we list our top-10 infielders in the area with a list of others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings.

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LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper, Wylie boys close season with bi-district losses

SLATON — The Cooper boys basketball team played right with Amarillo Palo Duro for three quarters Tuesday, but the Dons pulled away in the fourth to win the Region I-5A bi-district playoff 65-50.

Leading by just four points at the end of the third quarter, Palo Duro outscored Cooper 17-6 over the final eight minutes to end the Cougars’ season at 12-20.

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GAME STORY: Arlington Lamar puts clamps to Abilene High, ends Eagles’ season

MINERAL WELLS — The pressure got to the Abilene High boys basketball team Tuesday in the Eagles’ playoff opener against Arlington Lamar. But not the kind one might think.

Coach Justin Reese’s team showed up focused and ready to play, staying within a bucket of Lamar into the final minutes of the first half. But the Vikings full-court pressure wore the Eagles down over time in a 60-47 win.

Lamar rode a 9-3 run late in the second quarter to a seven-point hafltime lead and expanded it in each of the next two quarters to end AHS’ first playoff season since 2017 — and best since 2016 — at 23-9.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Catchers

After opening our baseball position rankings series with the pitchers on Monday, it’s time to shift our attention to their battery mates.

For the second installment in our five-part series, we celebrate the Big Country’s top catchers, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy our list.

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GAME STORY: Cisco boys rally in third quarter to escape upset-minded Merkel

The fourth-seeded Merkel Badgers put a scare into Cisco for a half Monday, but the District 6-3A champion Loboes regrouped at the break to secure a 53-42 win in a Region I-3A bi-district playoff at McMurry University’s Kimbrell Arena.

Trailing 31-24 at halftime, Cisco used an 18-2 run through the third quarter to take control and held off a Badger rally in the fourth to earn an area-round date with No. 11 Brock.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Pitchers

After kicking off the spring sports season with our softball position rankings last week, it’s time to turn our attention to the the baseball field and the names we’ll be hearing and reading about throughout the 2020 campaign.

For the first installment in a five-part series that will cover all position groups on the area baseball scene, we’ll be taking a look at the Big Country’s top pitchers, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch this fall.

We hope you enjoy reading through our list.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: This week in Big Country boys basketball (Feb. 24-March 1)

The playoffs are here for Texas’ high school boys basketball teams and, as always, Big Country squads will have their say in how the postseason plays out.

No fewer than 44 local and area teams have qualified for the playoffs in their respective classifications, giving us plenty to talk about as bi-district play gets underway Monday night.

From here on out, it’s win or go home, and with two rounds scheduled for this week and three for next, it won’t take long to see who all has a deep run in them.

With that, let’s take a look at what this first round has to offer.  

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned girls pull away late for comfortable win over Childress

STAMFORD — After watching Childress trim a six-point halftime lead to one late in the third quarter, Jim Ned coach Hunter Cooley could feel the momentum shifting in Friday’s Region I-3A area-round matchup with the Lady Cats.

So he did what good coaches often do in that situation: called a timeout to settle things down and challenged his team to tighten things up.

That tactic clearly worked as the No. 2 Lady Indians scored the next 10 points as part of an 18-7 game-ending run to secure a 46-34 win and earn a Region I-3A quarterfinal date with Bowie at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Cisco.

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BCP Softball Position Rankings: Utility Players

After recognizing the top pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders that the Big Country softball scene has to offer, we close our position ranking series with a celebration of versatility.

For the final installment in our five-part series, we take a look at the top utility players, ranking our top-six multi-position standouts.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these lists and encourage you to come back next week when we’ll feature the top baseball players in the Big Country.

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BCP Softball Position Rankings: Infielders

After highlighting the top pitchers and catchers on the Big Country softball scene the past two nights, it’s time to turn our attention to the field.

For the third installment in our five-part position rankings series, we list our top-10 infielders in the area for the 2020 season.

We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings.

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GAME RECAP: No. 14 Monterey ends Cooper girls’ season in bi-district round

BIG SPRING — The Cooper girls basketball team saw its best season in more than a decade come to an end in the bi-district round of the Region I-5A playoffs Tuesday, falling 77-38 to No. 14 Lubbock Monterey at Howard College’s Dorothy Garrett Coliseum.

Cooper, which topped the 20-win mark and earned a share of its first district title since 2007, closed its first season under coach Arsenio Geter at 24-12.

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GAME STORY: Cooper boys clinch playoff berth with win over Wylie

Needing a win to avoid a playoff with Wichita Falls High for District 4-5A’s fourth and final playoff spot, the Cooper boys basketball team came through in the clutch against crosstown rival Wylie on Tuesday.

Leading 14-10 after a quarter, the Cougars used a 15-6 run through the second period to take a 13-point lead into halftime and kept the injury-ravaged Bulldogs at arm’s length the rest of the way in securing a 66-54 at Cougar Gym.

The victory pulled Cooper into a third-place tie with Wylie at 3-5 in the district play, setting up a rematch between these teams at 7 p.m. Friday at Abilene High to decide the third and fourth seeds in 4-5A.

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BREAKING: Big Country FCA announces participants for 2020 All-Star Festival

The Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes announced the players selected to compete in the 2020 FCA All-Star Festival on Tuesday — a list that features 320 athletes from 71 Big Country and Concho Valley area high schools.

The Festival, which is comprised of all-star competitions in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and golf, is scheduled for June 7-13 at four different sites.

The coaches for the Festival, which were announced January, can be found here.

Continue reading for the complete list of the athletes selected to compete.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Big Country FCA announces participants for 2020 All-Star Festival”

GAME RECAP: Wylie girls see season end at hands of No. 1 Amarillo High

The Wylie girls basketball team saw its season come to an end Monday with a 72-39 loss to top-ranked Amarillo High in a Region I-5A bi-district matchup at Lubbock Christian University’s Rip Griffin Center.

The Lady Sandies raced out to a 20-12 lead after a quarter and buckled down defensively over the middle two periods to increase their advantage to 39 points (63-24) by the start of the fourth quarter.

The win improved Amarillo High’s record to 33-2, while Wylie closed its campaign at 18-17.

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