Author: Evan Ren

BIG COUNTRY BOYS STATISTICAL LEADERS (Scoring, rebounds, assists and steals through Jan. 16)

Each Thursday at 7 p.m., Big Country Preps will publish area boys basketball statistical leaders.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that do not submit their statistics in a given week will not be listed when our stats are posted, but will be added to the lists below as they are received in the coming days. 

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BIG COUNTRY GIRLS STATISTICAL LEADERS (Scoring, rebounds, assists and steals through Jan. 16)

Each Thursday at 7 p.m., Big Country Preps will publish area girls basketball statistical leaders.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that do not submit their statistics in a given week will not be listed when our stats are posted, but will be added to the lists below as they are received in the coming days. 

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GAME STORY: De Leon gets much-needed win over Hico in overtime thriller

DE LEON — Two of the Big Country’s most-improved girls teams collided on Tuesday in a District 10-2A matchup that saw De Leon escape with a 34-32 win over Hico in overtime. 

Taylor Mahan scored eight points, Chloe Stovall, Kenadi McGrath and Coral Sparger had seven each and Baylee Burrow added six to provide a balanced scoring effort for De Leon (15-11, 1-1), which needed the win to avoid an 0-2 league start. 

Hico, which got a game-high 14 points from Lauryl Stegall and nine from Luna Wilson, dropped to 19-4 and 1-1.  The Lady Tigers missed multiple shots down the stretch that could have been difference makers, only to see De Leon execute when it needed to. 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Breckenridge senior takes the top spot

Not only are the Breckenridge Buckaroos off to a flying start at 17-3, but senior guard Aaryn Medina is drawing plenty of attention as well. 

Our Big Country Preps Player of the Week lit up both Boyd (64-28) and Millsap (72-57) to lead the Buckaroos to a district sweep last week, with an eye-popping 35-point scoring average for the two games. 

Along the way, he collected a total of 20 rebounds, eight assists and nine steals to keep the Buckaroos unbeaten in district play at 3-0. 

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned boys rally late to top Ballinger, complete doubleheader sweep

TUSCOLA — One of the best Ballinger boys teams in years wanted to test itself with a difficult non-district road trip to Tucsola on Friday.

While in the end the Bearcats may have proven themselves capable against a regional power, it was the Jim Ned Indians who walked away with the win — rallying for a difficult 42-36 victory in the nightcap of a varsity doubleheader at Bill Thornton Arena.

The Jim Ned girls opened the evening with a 47-24 win in the opener, but it was Ford and the Jim Ned boys who stole the show.

Ford exploded for 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter to lead Jim Ned (16-5), which rallied from a 34-27 deficit with a 15-2 run over the final 3:30 of play. 

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Evan Ren’s 2019 Big Country True Grit Team: The toughest players in the Big Country!

We all know a football player who almost never misses any practice time and practically lives in the weight room. He’s always early to arrive and late to leave. He’s coachable, but seldom needs direction because he always pays attention. 

You know who I’m talking about.

The guy who sets a good example for young players. The guy who never complains and, first and foremost, is tough mentally and physically. He may not be the best player on a team (though some of them are). But he’s definitely the guy who gets the most out of the talent he’s given. 

Welcome to the 2019 “True Grit” team — the one place in the Big Country where guys who fall into this category are recognized for it.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brownwood’s Thompson snags first award of 2020

As the Brownwood Lady Lady Lions gain momentum as a team, their offensive leader has remained steady throughout an up-and-down 13-9 season and current five-game winning streak. 

Senior forward Matyah Thompson, has been a rock of consistency thus far, but most recently her efforts placed her among the area’s elite — so much so that she has garnered our first Big Country Preps Player of the Week award of 2020. 

That’s saying a lot, considering this week’s award is the only accolade we give over the span of two weeks, to cover games played over the Christmas break. And as you’ll see, there were several great efforts from players around the area. 

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FEATURE: Former Jim Ned standout Meagan Mitchell trying to right the De Leon ship

DE LEON — While her married name of Meagan Mitchell may not ring a bell to Big Country hoops fans, her maiden name, Meagan O’Dell, will be remembered by many who were paying attention. 

Mitchell, a former all-state selection at Jim Ned who went on to play collegiately at Tarleton State, was one of the top players in Tuscola under former coach Jim Avery, which included a trip to state in 2012, where she made the all-tournament team. 

Now at age 25, Mitchell finds herself rebuilding a long-struggling De Leon team, using the same principles she learned under Avery and under former Tarleton State coach Ronnie Hearne. 

It took a little while, but those concepts are beginning to catch on at DHS, and it’s translating into wins.

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GAME STORY: Merkel sweeps Stanton on special night at MHS

MERKEL — The 1000-point barrier is a celebrated milestone that few high school players achieve. So when Merkel senior Kayde Pursley topped the very rare 1,500-point plateau last week against Brownfield, those close to the program made up their minds to do something special in her return game on Friday at MHS. 

Following a 59-7 blowout of Stanton, an announcement of Pursley’s accomplishment was read over the PA system, after which she was presented with a banner showing her climb through the milestones, along with a plaque.  The brief ceremony preceded the boys game which saw Merkel hold off a Stanton rally for a 52-39 win to complete a doubleheader sweep.  

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EVAN REN: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2019

It’s never easy picking the top 10 stories of the year for the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

Stretching from Forsan in the west to Brock in the east and from San Saba in the south to Munday in the north, there are literally thousands of athletes producing countless stories to choose from. 

Pairing all of that down to just 10 examples forces one to leave out several notable options on a yearly basis. The upside of all this is that the area is never short on quality stories to reflect on. 

So as we say goodbye to the year 2019, we salute those local athletes and coaches who produced yet another memorable year for the entire area. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top stories from last year, in descending order:

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FEATURE: Running hoops tournaments can be a hassle, but the reward can benefit an entire town

ANSON — It could be said that a well-run high school basketball tournament is an event where the organizers aren’t noticed at all. One that operates so smoothly that the only thing people have to worry about is basketball. 

Behind the scenes, however, is a busy contingent of volunteers, working to see that all the square pegs find the square holes. It’s not as easy as it looks, and the level of difficulty can be even higher for lesser-known events.

Last week, for example, multiple tournaments were played throughout Texas, including large events in Eula and Brownwood. But under the radar, a nine-year-old event in Anson — The Lions Club Holiday Tournament — battled its way through some last-minute changes to secure another successful conclusion. 

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Anson girls fall to Childress in title game of Lions Club Tournament

ANSON — When studying videotape of Friday’s 45-40 loss to Childress, the Anson girls basketball team will likely find several key plays that would have helped to reverse the result of the title game in the Ninth Annual  Lions Club Holiday Tournament. 

But perhaps none were more important than a third quarter foul drawn by junior Landry Overby, which saw her take an unintentional blow to the head while driving for a layup. Shaken up, Overby was subsequently removed from the game, leaving the already size-challenged Lady Tigers at a big disadvantage to CHS.

Overby, who was named to the all-tourney team, finished with seven points. But without her on the floor during the final period, the Lady Tigers, who trailed 29-28 after three quarters, saw the game gradually slip away. 

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Lady Tigers, Roby, Roscoe advance to semis in Lions Club event

ANSON — A little extra defensive intensity and much better offensive execution after the break helped the Anson Lady Tigers to a 39-23 win over De Leon and a first-place finish in Pool A of the Anson Lions Club Tournament on Friday. 

Gracie Feagan scored 16 points and Valerie Fells added seven more to lift Anson (15-3), which advances to the semifinal round where it will meet Roscoe at 8:30 a.m. Childress and Roby will meet in the other girls semifinal at 11:30 — both games will be at AHS’ primary gymnasium.  

The winners will converge to play for the tournament championship at 6 p.m.  

On the boys’ side, three cancellations from Hamlin, Richland Springs and Vega (the first two due to extended  football seasons), cut a 12-team round robin to just nine, forcing some last-minute changes in the schedule. 

Gunter, Wellington and Post advanced as the pool winners and will play a three-team round robin for the title on Saturday. 

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EVAN REN: Hamlin will fully appreciate its state experience

While sitting in the postgame news conference following Hamlin’s 25-20 loss to Mart on Thursday, I half expected the Pied Pipers to arrive with coach Russell Lucas barely able to speak. 

They had just given the defending state champions all they wanted and could very well have dethroned the Panthers, had it not been for four turnovers. They had every reason to show up stone-faced and heartbroken — like so many other losing teams at state we’ve seen in the past.

That’s understandable. 

Nobody goes to state with the goal of finishing second. And after 16 straight weeks of sweating blood, it’s difficult to get your emotions to turn on a dime. 

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GAME STORY: Hamlin’s title chance slips amid four turnovers in loss to Mart

ARLINGTON — While prepping for Thursday’s Class 2A Division II state championship game against Mart, Hamlin coach Russell Lucas cited limiting big plays, winning the turnover battle and blocking out distractions as the top keys for the Pied Pipers to dethrone the defending state champions. 

As it turned out, Hamlin achieved every key but one — losing the turnover battle (4-0) and eventually, the game, falling to Mart 25-20 at AT&T Stadium. 

Roddrell Freeman rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns and Klyderion Campbell rushed for 60 yards and added a pick-six to lead Mart (13-3), which claimed its third straight state title with the win. 

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BCP PLAYOFF FORECAST: Can the Pipers stop Mart from a three-peat? Big Ev makes his pick

LAST WEEK:  0-2, .000

OVERALL: 486-97, .834

Picking .834 for the season but missing both state semifinal selections is akin to batting .400 for the year but striking out twice with the bases loaded in the seventh game of the World Series. 

Well …. not exactly. But you get my point.

What can I say? After being on fire for 14 straight weeks, this column has hit a late-season slump, going 3-5 over the last two weeks and whiffing twice in the state semis. Nonetheless, I’ve got one more game to pick and it’s a biggie. 

The Hamlin Pied Pipers (12-2) will square off with perennial powerhouse Mart (12-3) for the Class 2A Division II state title, officially closing the books on the best picks season I’ve ever had.

That said, let’s dive in.

Here’s this week’s forecast and we’ll see you in Arlington.  

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STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Hamlin’s state newcomers challenge Mart’s ‘Jerry World’ vets

HAMLIN — In the 1986 motion picture “Hoosiers” there is a memorable scene in which coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) uses a clever tactic to help his small-town team overcome their feeling of “awe” after arriving at a huge basketball venue.

Taking out a tape measure, Dale instructs some of his players to measure the distance from the baseline to the free throw line and from the floor to the rim. The measurements, of course, were 15 and 10 feet, respectively.

“I think you’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale says, making the point that the game is unchanged by all of the fancy surroundings.

Thursday morning at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a group of green-clad people from Hamlin will meet on the field, where coach Russell Lucas will try to make a similar point. 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Strong effort nets Brownwood senior the top spot

In a week that saw several top-flight performances, Brownwood senior Zach Strong handed in a genuine rarity — topping the 1000-point mark for his career while helping the Lions to a perfect record and tournament championship. 

Helping Brownwood to a 5-0 record on the week, including a tournament title in Hamilton, Strong averaged 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to earn all-tournament honors and our final Big Country Preps Player of the Week award of 2019.

Continue reading “BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Strong effort nets Brownwood senior the top spot”

EVAN REN: Hamlin, Lucas have earned their time in the sun

Everyone who regularly attends sporting events loves the sights, the sounds and the smells associated with simply being there. We soak it all in, take the images that are most notable, then splash them on to our memory like a fuzzy Leroy Neiman painting.

But imagery isn’t what keeps us coming back. That’s just the icing.

It’s the drama surrounding athletics that draws us in like a magnet. The human stories behind each team, each player and each coach are what capture our imagination and inspire us to root for one side, even if we have no vested interest in the outcome. 

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