Author: Evan Ren

Evan Ren’s 2019 Big Country Gym Rat Team: The hardest workers in the area!

Following a basketball program on the surface can only provide one with so much insight. Behind the scenes, however, is where character is often measured. And it is with our Gym Rat Team that we wish to tip our caps to those individuals who exuded the most of it. 

This team isn’t about who the best players are, though some of the area’s top players did make this list. 

The Gym Rat team is about effort, discipline, toughness, coachability and selflessness — traits that coaches love above all else and that championship foundations are built upon.

It is for that reason that our Gym Rat team is selected entirely by area coaches, described in their own words. And Big Country Preps is absolutely honored to present these individuals to you — the best “team players” (boys and girls) that the area had to offer during the 2018-19 season.

Players are listed in no particular order. 

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All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Superlatives: Lloyd, Gonzales, Garcia take top spots

Here are our superlative award winners for the inaugural All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: First-Team Roster

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

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All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: Second-Team Roster

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

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

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

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GAME STORY: Clyde girls solidify district lead with crucial win over C-City

CLYDE — It took the better part of six innings and some late Colorado City miscues, but the Clyde Lady Bulldogs cemented their status as the team to beat in District 5-3A with an 8-0 win on Tuesday. 

Kaitlyn Turner tossed a five-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and Peyton Lee was 2-for-4 with two runs scored to lead Clyde 16-4, 5-0, which took sole possession of first place with the win. 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Hawley’s George takes the top spot

Generally, an individual state championship will trump virtually any other performance at the local level in this column. 

And this week, three of our nominees did exactly that, so you can imagine our dilemma in choosing our Player of the Week.

At the end of the day, it was Hawley powerlifter Britney George, who won the Class 2A state title in the 181-pound class with a performance for the ages. 

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BREAKING: Yeager resigns at De Leon

Big Country Preps has learned that De Leon football coach/athletic director David Yeager has handed in his resignation.

Yeager was 52-33 overall in seven years at De Leon, including a 9-5 mark last year.

He cited a desire to watch his son, Kevin, play collegiate football at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio as the primary reason for his departure.

Defensive coordinator Andy Dickson is believed to be a top candidate to replace Yeager as head coach.

“My wife and I have been thinking about this for a while and thought the time was right to end this chapter in De Leon and see what the future holds,” said Coach Yeager, who has an overall career record of 154-87. “We had seven great years here and many wonderful friends and memories made.”  

Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Abilene High ace ‘K-Wash’ nabs award

For the second week in a row, a standout softball pitcher has earned the title of Big Country Preps Player of the Week.

This time, it’s Abilene High senior Kaylen Washington.

“K-Wash,” as she is referred to by coaches and teammates, continued what’s been a dominating season in District 3-6A wins over Hurst Bell (7-0) and San Angelo Central (6-1), helping the Lady Eagles (14-1-2 overall) stay perfect in league play at 3-0.

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GAME STORY: Late free throw lifts Dallas Madison over Brock in 3A title game

SAN ANTONIO — In the end, the Brock Eagles handled everything they were worried about when facing Dallas Madison in the Class 3A state title game.

They neutralized the Trojans’ pressure and kept the turnover margin close. They kept Madison’s vaunted rebounders at bay and won the glass. 

There was just one thing missing: The normally sharpshooting Eagles hit just 18 of 45 field goal attempts (40 percent) and were 2 of 13 from the 3-point line in a 49-48 loss in the Alamodome. 

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GAME STORY: Slidell tops Jayton to capture Class 1A state championship

 

SAN ANTONIO — A fast start and strong finish propelled Slidell to a 49-36 win over Jayton in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday, ending the Jaybirds’ best season ever one win shy of the ultimate prize.

Making their first state tournament appearance since 1955, the Greyhounds (33-8) used a 13-5 first quarter and an 18-9 fourth period to hold off a scrappy Jaybird squad.

Hunter Horner scored 12 points and Ben McCasland added 11 more to lead Slidell offensively. But it was tournament MVP Slayton Pruett who did most of the damage, hauling in 21 rebounds and blocking five Jayton shots to go with 10 points. 

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GAME STORY: Brock uses big fourth quarter to eliminate East Chambers

SAN ANTONIO — Prior to Thursday’s Class 3A state semifinal with Winnie East Chambers, Brock coach Zach Boxell was concerned enough over a Buccaneer full-court press that he made it a top priority in his game prep. 

The extra effort paid off with a 58-49 Brock win at the Alamodome — pushing the Eagles (33-6) to Saturday’s state championship game where they will meet Dallas Madison (20-15) at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

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GAME STORY: Jayton advances with buzzer-beating upset of Nazareth

SAN ANTONIO — For most of the second quarter in Thursday’s Class 1A state semifinal with Nazareth, Jayton’s Tye Scogin sat on the bench with a bloody nose after catching an inadvertent elbow from NHS’ Jake Gerber. 

Scogin, however, would eventually get his chance, returning in the second half to deliver a game-winning shot in the lane as the buzzer sounded in a thrilling 38-37 win for the Jaybirds in the Alamodome. 

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EVAN REN: Three keys for Brock and Jayton to win their semifinals

You won’t find cupcakes at a butcher shop. 

You won’t find them at the state basketball tournament either. In fact, the expiration date for easy-to-beat pastries usually doesn’t extend beyond the area round of the playoffs, depending on what the pairings dictate.  

So when I say that Big Country representatives Brock (3A) and Jayton (1A) are in for a real challenge when they open play at the state tournament in San Antonio on Thursday, a shrug of the shoulders and a raise of the eyebrows is expected. 

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FEATURE: Young, guard-heavy Jayton heads to San Antonio

While it’s generally accepted that height and experience are advantages in basketball, the Jayton Jaybirds have managed to work around the fact that they have neither. 

All the way to San Antonio. 

Fielding a 14-man roster in the Region II-1A tournament over the weekend, no fewer than 12 Jaybirds who dressed at Abilene Christian University were listed as guards, and none of them stand taller than 6-foot-2. 

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Brownwood senior Ellett tosses two no-nos to take award

No-hitters are fairly common in fastpitch softball, but they are to be respected, nonetheless — especially when someone throws two of them in one week. 

Chyanne Ellett, Brownwood’s senior ace who has been among the area’s top hurlers since her freshman year, accomplished the feat last week in a 5-0 win over Chisholm trail and a 1-0 loss to Granbury that saw GHS pitcher Alison Been match Ellett’s no-no with one of her own. 

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REGIONAL SIDEBAR: Confidence, focus lift Jaybirds to state tournament (w/four videos)

After three close calls with the state tournament that had died on the regional vine, even Jayton coach Ryan Bleiker had begun to wonder if he would ever guide the Jaybirds to the final four. 

But somehow, someway, this weekend in Abilene, he saw it coming — a two-game regional sweep with consecutive wins over Eden (58-25) and Irion County (47-32) to send Jayton to its first-ever state tournament in boys basketball.

Something in the Jaybirds’ demeanor told Bleiker that his stretch of losing three regional semifinals in four years was over. 

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GAME STORY: Slow start, free-throw line hurt Eula in semifinal loss to Slidell (box score included)

Coming into the Region III-1A semifinal with Slidell, the Eula Pirates were on fire from the field, canning no fewer than 24 3-pointers over their last two games. 

That stretch came to an icy finish on Friday, with Eula struggling from the floor in a 51-36 loss at Mansfield High School.

Brock Harwell scored 23 points and Slayton Pruett added 14 more to lead Slidell (30-9), which advances to face top-ranked Lipan in the Region III title game at 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

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GAME STORY: Chapel Hill dodges a last-second bullet to eliminate Wall in overtime (box score and photo gallery w/29 images included)

SAN ANTONIO — With the game knotted at 48 in the final seconds of regulation, Wall’s Sawyer Lloyd canned a jumper as time expired to give the Lady Hawks a would-be 50-48 win over Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill in Thursday’s 3A state semifinal in the Alamodome. 

There was, however, a problem — did the ball leave her hands before time expired? 

After a few intense minutes of video replay study, game officials determined that Lloyd’s shot wasn’t released in time, forcing overtime where Chapel Hill eventually prevailed 53-49.

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GAME STORY: Nazareth eliminates Hermleigh girls 48-17 (Video, box score and photo gallery w/29 images included)

SAN ANTONIO — For the second straight year, the Hermleigh Lady Cardinals squared off with perennial power Nazareth in the Class 1A state semifinals. 

And for the second straight year, HHS had difficulty keeping pace with Swiftettes, falling 48-17 on Thursday in the Alamodome.

Held to just 18 percent shooting, Hermleigh didn’t score a field goal until the 7:20 mark of the second quarter when a Makia Gonzales layup broke the Lady Cardinals’ cold spell. By that point, Hermleigh trailed 14-3 and never managed to cut the lead under single digits. 

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STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Wall, Hermleigh carry Big Country torch to San Antonio

With the Texas High School equivalent to the Final Four kicking off in San Antonio with this week’s UIL state tournament, two Big Country representatives — Wall and Hermleigh — are among the survivors. 

And as one might suspect, any further advancement will be a major challenge for both. 

Ninth-ranked Hermleigh (30-5) will take the stage first, taking on top-ranked perennial power Nazareth (30-6) in a Class 1A state semifinal at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Alamodome.

Wall (32-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, will hit the floor at 1:30 p.m. against No. 2 Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill (35-0).

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GAME STORY: Pirate defense pushes Eula into regional semifinals (video, box score and photo gallery w/37 images included)

EASTLAND — The Eula Pirates may have been a bit streaky on the offensive side in Tuesday’s Region III-1A quarterfinal with Huckabay. But coach Josh Fostel’s crew made up for it with a wire-to-wire defensive effort in a 60-26 win at Eastland High School.

Cade Smith scored 17 points while Dakota Boles and Matthew Booth added 11 each to pace the 11th-ranked Pirates (28-6), who now push on to the Region III-1A tournament, where they will meet No. 6 Slidell at 5 p.m. Friday in Mansfield.

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Eastland’s Foster snags the award

Softball and baseball are officially here. And cold weather or not, we’re already seeing performances worthy of consideration here. 

Case in point: Eastland’s Brynna Foster, our Big Country Preps Player of the Week for the week ending Feb. 23. 

Foster, who is only a junior, tossed four shutouts in last week’s Stephenville tournament to help the Lady Mavs improve to 10-2.   

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GAME STORY: Lady Hawks punch their ticket to the Alamo City with win over Idalou (w/ two videos, box score)

PLAINVIEW —A slight edge in every major statistic added up to a convincing 52-36 win for the Wall Lady Hawks in Saturday’s Region I-3A championship game with Idalou.

Jayden Fiebiger scored 16 points and Samantha Rocha added a dozen more to lift Wall (32-1), which took control of the game shortly after the outset of the second half. 

 The Lady Hawks now advance to the UIL State Tournament in San Antonio on Feb. 28. Their opponent in the state semifinals should be announced on Sunday. 

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