Author: Daniel Youngblood

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: This week in Big Country boys basketball (Jan. 20-26)

Basketball season is in full swing, and district races are heating up. We’ve reached the part of the year where each and every game is important, so it’s time to start taking a closer look at the area basketball scene.

With teams playing games every Tuesday and Friday that will help decide district championships, playoff berths and seeding, we’re firing back up our weekly lookahead columns to keep readers up to date on the key matchups and results that will ultimately shape the playoff brackets.

So without wasting anymore time, let’s take a look at the area boys basketball landscape for the coming week.

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LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper girls pick up 20th win, AHS boys improve to 5-0 in 3-6A

WICHITA FALLS — The Cooper girls basketball team improved to 2-1 in District 4-5A play Friday and picked up its 20th win of the season in the process, routing Wichita Falls High 74-20. 

The game was well in hand after a quarter as the Lady Coogs raced out to a 22-3 lead eight minutes in and increased that to 39-12 by halftime before cruising in the second half to a comfortable win.

Continue reading “LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper girls pick up 20th win, AHS boys improve to 5-0 in 3-6A”

GAME STORY: Wylie girls knock off Aledo for first district win, boys drop 4-5A opener

The Wylie girls basketball team picked up a much-needed win Friday night, rallying from an early fourth-quarter deficit to knock off Aledo 35-31 and avoid an 0-3 start to District 4-5A play.

The Lady Bulldogs outscored the Ladycats 10-7 in the fourth quarter, including 10-5 over the final six minutes to improve to 14-13 on the year and put themselves firmly back in the district race with five league games remaining.

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FEATURE: Senior trio leading No. 7 Brock boys to another strong campaign

Graduating five seniors the caliber of Brock’s in 2019 would have sent most Class 3A boys basketball programs into an immediate rebuilding situation.

Guards Treston Hughes, Bradon Smith and Landon Hoffman, and forwards Scott Thomas and Cooper Allen were all key members of an Eagles squad that finished last season at 34-6 — one bucket away from a state championship.

But Brock is not most programs. The Eagles, who have 12 state tournament appearances to their credit, don’t rebuild. And it’s been a trio of returners from last year’s team — guard Brayton Chitty and posts Ty Duggin and Zane Cook — who have ensured that that tradition has continued this winter.

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FEATURE: AHS post Watts growing into enormous potential for Eagles

As a sophomore on varsity last season, Nathan Watts showed flashes of the type of player he could be for the Abilene High boys basketball team and coach Justin Reese. But a knee injury midway through district play ended his season prematurely.

The extra time off only fueled the Eagles’ big man, who spent the offseason working hard to improve his physical condition and expand his skill set to be ready for a larger role this year.

That work has paid off in a major way and can be seen in Watts’ performance, which has earned him a place among the area’s top post players. And his presence and production, more importantly, have helped AHS build a 17-8 record that has featured a 4-0 start to District 3-6A action.

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BCP Podcast No. 77: Evan Daniel discuss Jim Ned basketball with coach Eric Phelps

Since taking over the Jim Ned boys basketball program, coach Eric Phelps has put his stamp on a program that has long been one of the Big Country’s best.

Earlier this week, Phelps joined Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood to discuss this year’s team, the pressure of leading one of the area’s most successful programs and his time as a Texas Tech student manager under Bobby Knight for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel discuss the retirement announcement of longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer as well as the other prominent Big Country coaches who hung up their whistles this school year.

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: AHS girls pick up first district win, Wylie boys top Graham

The Abilene High girls basketball team picked up its first district win Tuesday, building a 22-11 halftime lead and holding on over the final two quarters to beat Haltom City Haltom 48-44 at Eagle Gym.

AHS, now 12-15 overall, got 20 points from Trakenya (KK) Roberson and seven apiece from Syncere Reed and Justine Martinez in improving to 1-4 in District 3-6A play.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High boys extend district win streak against Haltom

The Abilene High boys basketball team controlled Haltom City Haltom from start to finish Tuesday, using a 15-8 run through the first quarter to take control early in a 52-39 win at Eagle Gym.

Jalen McGee scored 15 points to lead AHS, while Nathan Watts and Jackson Stevens each added 10 as the Eagles improved to 17-8 on the season and remained perfect in District 3-6A play at 4-0.

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GAME STORY: Fast start fuels Cooper girls to home rout of Wylie

Coming off losses in their respective district openers on Friday, the Cooper and Wylie girls basketball teams entered their crosstown matchup Tuesday at Cougar Gym needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start to league play.

That urgency was evident for the Lady Cougars, who scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed in routing the Lady Bulldogs 69-40. 

The win, which improved Cooper to 19-8 overall and 1-1 in District 4-5A action, provided a nice rebound performance from last week’s 50-45 loss at Aledo and was the product, coach Arsenio Geter said, of an important discussion during Monday’s practice.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Wylie’s Sandifer a coaching legend, better man

When I arrived in Abilene in June 2007, less than a month after graduating from Baylor, my experience with the city was confined to my two-day interview with the Reporter-News.

The only things I knew about the Wylie football program I’d soon be covering for the newspaper were those I’d been told — that the Bulldogs were really good and that coach Hugh Sandifer was an icon in the south Abilene community.

It was only after being here a little while that I realized why those things were — and that those two seemingly interconnected facts stood largely independent of each other.

Sandifer, who announced Friday that he’ll be ending his 41-year tenure at Wylie when he retires at the end of this school year, is and will be remembered as a great coach. But it’s not his 285 career wins (the 17th highest total in Texas high school football history), four state championship game appearances or 2004 title run with current Redskins quarterback Case Keenum that will define his legendary career.

It is, instead, the integrity with which he operated and the way he treated and impacted people from his role as a mentor — characteristics widely celebrated in the social media response to Friday’s news and qualities to which I, personally, can attest.

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LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Abilene High boys stay perfect in district with win at Central

SAN ANGELO — The Abilene High boys basketball team used a 21-point second quarter to erase a first-quarter deficit and took complete control after halftime in a 53-35 win over San Angelo Central on Friday.

Trailing 10-8 after one period, the Eagles outscored the Bobcats 38-20 over the middle two quarters to improve to 16-8 on the year and 3-0 in District 3-6A play.

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GAME STORY: Freshman leads Rider past Lady Bulldogs, Frenship too much for Wylie boys

Freshman forward Jalynn Bristow came within three points of matching Wylie’s team scoring total Friday in leading the Wichita Falls Rider girls basketball team to a 48-30 road win over the Lady Bulldogs in the District 4-5A opener for both teams.

Bristow, one of the top freshmen in the state, scored 27 points on 12 made field goals to put the Lady Raiders in control early and for good at Bulldog Gym.

Behind the freshman phenom, who set a school-record with 42 points earlier this season against Odessa Permian, Rider built a 26-13 halftime lead and added to it in each of the final two quarters to improve to 22-1 on the season.

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UPDATED: Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announces retirement

Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announced his retirement Friday, ending a 41-year tenure at the only school at which he’s ever coached.

Starting his career as an assistant out of Abilene Christian University and holding roles across multiple sports in his early years, Sandifer took over the Wylie football program in 1986 and, over the next decade, built the Bulldogs into a regional power.

He leaves high school football with a 285-127-4 overall record, including 27 playoff berths, four state championship game appearances and a title in 2004. But his on-field performance only tells part of the story, said Wylie Superintendent Joey Light, who had known before Friday that this announcement was coming.

Continue reading “UPDATED: Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announces retirement”

BCP Podcast No. 76: Evan, Daniel discuss All-Big Country Preps football teams, area hoops

After a two-week holiday break, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood return to the Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to discuss the All-Big Country Preps football teams, released Wednesday.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel speak briefly on the Big Country hoops scene.

Continue to check back at BigCountryPreps.com each Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when Evan and Dan discuss the current happenings in Big Country High School sports — often with an interesting sports figure from around the area.

You can also peruse our BCP Podcast archive, which features dozens of our previous shows with prominent coaches and Big Country media fixtures. 

Inquiries regarding these podcasts may be directed to Evan Ren at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com. 

If you have a suggested topic of conversation or a recommended guest, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

BCP PODCAST ARCHIVE 

BIG COUNTRY PREPS FACEBOOK PAGE 

BIG COUNTRY PREPS TWITTER PAGE 

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper girls cruise past Sweetwater, Coogs top Graham

SWEETWATER — Trailing Sweetwater 19-17 after one quarter Tuesday, the Cooper girls basketball team bounced back with an 18-2 through the second period and cruised from there to a 62-34 nondistrict victory over the Lady Mustangs.

Jennika Willis scored 15 points, while Kaleigha Kemp and Dazz Larkins added 11 and 10 points, respectively, to help the Lady Cougars improve to 18-7 on the year.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High boys outlast Bell in District 3-6A thriller

The Abilene High boys basketball team improved to 2-0 in District 3-6A play Tuesday with another narrow win, following Friday’s 57-56 win at North Richland Hills Richland with a 60-55 home victory over Hurst Bell.

Trailing by a point after three quarters, the Eagles were able to grab a lead early in the final period and seal the victory at the free-throw line to improve to 15-8 on the year.

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LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Abilene High boys open district with win, Cooper girls top Odessa High

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — The Abilene High boys basketball team opened District 3-6A play with a 57-56 win over North Richland Hills Richland on Friday, outscoring the Rebels 16-13 in the third quarter to break a 31-all tie before hanging on in the final period for the victory.

Paced by Nathan Watts, whose 22 points led all scorers, the Eagles edged Richland 26-25 over the final two quarters to improve to 14-8 overall and 1-0 in league action.

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FEATURE: Years of hard work paying off for Hartfield, Breckenridge boys

For high school coaches, patience is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity.

In a vocation centered around the development of young people both in and out of the competitive arena, it can take time for things to come together as hoped, planned or envisioned. And that progression isn’t always linear.

But it’s in the realization of a player or team’s potential that most coaches find their greatest reward — a fact to which fourth-year Breckenridge boys basketball coach Colby Hartfield can attest.

Sitting at 13-3 after a second-place finish at the Eula Holiday Classic on Dec. 27-28, Hartfield’s Buckaroos are off to one of the best starts of any small-school team in the Big Country. And they’re doing it with most of the same players that went 17-16 a year ago — a handful of which were part of a 6-21 squad in Hartfield’s first season.

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FEATURE: Gritty Lady Loboes picking up where they left off despite graduation losses

After losing three key seniors from last year’s 31-4 squad, the Cisco girls basketball team was expected by some to take a significant step backward this season.

Those folks clearly underestimated the leadership and grit of the 2019-20 Lady Loboes.

While the losses of district offensive MVP Leigh Anne Montell, district defensive MVP Katelyn Bird and first-team all-district pick Lauren Underwood have certainly been felt, they haven’t flung Cisco into the rebuilding phase some viewed as inevitable.

In fact, after a 2-0 start to District 6-3A play and a run to the championship game of the Eula Holiday Classic over the weekend, the Lady Loboes are looking like a threat once again in a stacked Region I-3A field.

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Martin’s Mill tops Breck for Eula Holiday Classic boys title

For 2½ quarters, Breckenridge played right with perennial power Martin’s Mill in the Eula Holiday Classic boys championship game Saturday. But the Buckaroos ran out of gas over the final 12 minutes, falling to the Class 2A No. 3 Mustangs 64-42 to cap two days of near-nonstop basketball action.

Breck, which defeated Jim Ned 60-47 in Saturday morning’s semifinals after an impressive 2-0 showing on Friday, was tied with Martin’s Mill at 28-all with 5:31 remaining in the third quarter. But the Mustangs closed that period on a 16-2 run and maintained control for the remainder of the game to claim their second straight title at Eula’s annual tournament.

That finish followed a 62-44 win for Childress over Jim Ned in the boys third-place game. The Bobcats, who fell to Martin’s Mill 58-53 in the quarterfinals on Friday, replaced Tolar in the third-place game to avoid a matchup with district rival Holliday in the consolation title game. Tolar ended up taking the Gold Bracket consolation championship with a 39-36 victory over Holliday.

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Buzzer beaters decide girls title, third-place game at Eula Classic

The girls half of the Eula Holiday Classic came to a thrilling close Saturday as both the Gold Bracket championship and third-place games were decided by last-second 3-pointers.

Mere hours after Anna Masonheimer’s buzzer-beating trey lifted Eula to a 33-32 win over Eastland in the third-place game, Mason’s Jesse Armstrong canned a triple at the horn to lift the Cowgirls to a 37-35 victory over Cisco for the tournament title.

Those outcomes put a bow on a weekend of basketball action that saw 14 teams play 28 games over a two-day period at the Eula and Clyde gyms. 

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Eula, Cisco, Eastland to compete for title on Day 2 of Holiday Classic

There will be three Big Country teams in the Eula Holiday Classic girls semifinals Saturday after successful runs Friday by Eula, Cisco and Eastland.

Eula defeated Eastland 26-24 in what was essentially an exhibition to open the tournament, and both the Lady Pirates and Lady Mavs followed that performance with quarterfinal wins to secure spots in the semis. Eula throttled Tolar 40-24 to earn a matchup with Cisco, while Eastland blasted Clyde 48-23 to advance to take on Mason.

Cisco claimed its spot in Saturday’s semifinals with a 42-36 win over Holliday in the first round and a 59-55 double-overtime victory over Colorado City in the quarters.

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Breck, Jim Ned earn spot in boys semis at Eula Holiday Classic

After 15 games of boys action on Day 1 of the Eula Holiday Classic, two Big Country teams remain with a chance at the tournament title. 

Both Breckenridge and Jim Ned swept their two games Friday to earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals. And one of those two is guaranteed to reach the championship game as the Buckaroos and Indians are slated to face off at 10:20 a.m. for a shot to face the winner between fellow semifinalists Martin’s Mill and Tolar.

Breckenridge earned that opportunity with dominating wins over Colorado City (63-34) and Eula (50-37), while Jim Ned had to rally past Holliday for a 31-29 win in the quarterfinals after routing Christoval 61-31 in its opener.

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