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GAME STORY: Albany storms back to take Game 2, completes quarterfinal sweep of Coleman

Trailing the Coleman Bluecats 11-3 after three innings in Game 2 of their Region I-2A baseball quarterfinal series at McMurry University, the Albany Lions had something stunning in store for everyone attendance — a comeback for the ages.  

Coy Lefevre, Zane Waggoner, Caden Price, Cole Read and Bryson Herring all collected two hits and at least one RBI each to lead Albany (19-4), which scored 11 runs over a five-inning stretch to rally for a 14-12 win in eight innings on Saturday.

The Lions now advance to face either Clarendon or Lockney in the Region I-2A semifinals. 

“They stayed with it and it was a great comeback,” Albany coach David Fairchild said. “We didn’t start well on the mound and we used a lot of pitchers today.

“I’m proud of the way they battled.” 

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GAME STORY: Hico rallies to eliminate Tolar, advances to first regional semifinal

“Winning a series this way is like eating an elephant. It’s monumental, but the way you do it is just one bite at a time. The kids believed that and they did it.” — Hico Softball coach Ryan Starnes

STEPHENVILLE — Prior to this season the Hico Lady Tigers had never won a softball playoff game, much less a series. 

Now they’re heading to a regional semifinal and very few, even in the Hico camp, saw it coming.

With Monday’s 4-2, 7-3 sweep of Tolar in Games 2 and 3 of a Region II-2A quarterfinal, the Lady Tigers completed a stunning series comeback after falling  14-5 in Game 1 on Saturday. They now continue their journey into uncharted waters, where they will face Axtell in the Region II semis later this week. 

“We’ve had an inability to get over the hump against Tolar,” Hico coach Ryan Starnes said. “We played them several times and things would just go bad. We wouldn’t play good softball, but today, we put it together.” 

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: O’Malley takes second straight award

Merkel’s Alyssa O’Malley continues to endure pain, continues to amaze and continues to win. 

For the second straight week, O’Malley has captured our Capital Farm Credit/BCP Player of the Week award after capturing four Region I-3A championships, despite a stress fracture in her foot.

And in O’Malley’s case, we’re talking about individual events — not medals won in a relay event. 

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FEATURE: Maiden relays a threat to win three state titles

Haskell’s girls relay teams truly believe they can beat anybody at the Class 2A level.  

That confidence was instilled last year when they captured three relay medals at state. It’s only grown under new coach Mindy Myers, who’s no stranger to success on the sport’s biggest stage.   

Last week’s area track meet was the next step of progression for the Lady Indians, who ran their fastest times of the year in the 4×100 (50.01), 4×200 (1:45.27) and 4×400 (4:06.42).   

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FEATURE: Multi-sport standout Roberson at his very best in track and field

Photos courtesy of Cassie Gang Photography

Coleman’s Devinar Roberson has an explosiveness that can’t be taught.  

He’s motivated by a play-to-win mentality. And he doesn’t mind putting on a show, either.  

Those qualities make Roberson not only a state title contender in multiple field events, but also a must-watch competitor every time the senior jumps.  

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FEATURE: Anson team hoping to close the deal on unfinished business from last year

ANSON — A year ago, the Anson Tigers couldn’t have come much closer to reaching the state tournament. Stopped within one victory of a trip to Round Rock, the Tigers fell in three games to New Deal in the Region I-2A championship series in Seminole. 

At first glance, a Game 3 loss to New Deal was a disaster, ending in a 10-2 loss. But Anson was trailing 4-2 after five complete innings — still competing for a shot at state when New Deal broke things open with s six-run sixth inning. 

That is the memory that is currently fueling the 2022 Anson Club, which is hoping to navigate its way back through a tough Region I bracket to reach the promised land for Class 2A teams: Dell Diamond in Round Rock for the state tournament.

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GAME STORY: Palmer narrowly misses another perfecto in crucial district win over Clyde

TUSCOLA — In the end, one run would have been enough. 

But on a night when Jim Ned starting pitcher Blaine Palmer was nearly unhittable, the Indians drove in enough runs to end a crucial district game with Clyde, 10-0 in only six innings. 

Braden Lewis was 2 for 4 with a double, triple and three RBIs and Troy Doran was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs to lead Jim Ned (15-1, 6-0), which solidified its hold on the District 6-3A lead with the win.

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Evan Ren’s 2022 Big Country Preps Gym Rat Team: The toughest, hardest-working players in the area!

Scoring and rebounding is only part of the story when it comes to basketball. Behind the scenes and beyond the view of the public, is where character is often measured. And it is with our Big Country Preps Gym Rat Team that we salute the individuals who exude the most of it. 

This team isn’t about who the best players are, though some of the area’s top players are on 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 2021-22 season.

Players are listed in no particular order. 

Enjoy.

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GAME STORY: Coleman baseballers maintain district lead with important win over De Leon

COLEMAN — With area rival De Leon coming to town on Tuesday with designs on first place, the Coleman Bluecats got the one thing they wanted most in an effort to protect their district lead: a great pitching performance. 

Ryland Gentry threw a complete-game four-hitter with seven strikeouts and was 2 for 3 with an RBI to lead Coleman to a 7-2 win at CHS to keep the Bluecats (5-4, 4-0 District 7-2A) on top of the league standings. 

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GAME STORY: Early softballers rally to upset highly touted Brock

 

EARLY — With district favorite Brock in town on Friday and Early playing the roll of underdog, the Lady Longhorns needed a triple dose of patience, confidence and luck to snap a losing streak to BHS that dated back at least nine seasons. 

As fate would have it, the Lady ‘Horns found all three in a stunning come-from-behind 7-6 win which saw them rally from a 6-2 deficit with five unanswered runs between the fifth and seventh innings. 

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GAME STORY: Brady earns important District 6-3A road win at Merkel

MERKEL — It’s all a matter of perspective. 

Following Brady’s 4-0 win at Merkel on Tuesday, the Bulldogs can easily view their victory as a clutch performance, marked by timely hitting and pitching that came through whenever they were needed.

Merkel, on the other hand, can view it as a day of missed opportunities, with  a dozen men left on base, including five who reached scoring position. 

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brock senior takes this week’s top spot

Photo courtesy of Tommy Hays.

While much of the Big Country may be unfamiliar with Brock senior Tessa Cowan, Dublin and Peaster became well acquainted with our Capital Farm Credit/BCP Player of the Week last week in their respective 18-3 and 13-1 losses. 

Finishing a combined 5 of 7 through the two wins, Cowan went yard three times to go with a double, a walk and 10 RBIs. 

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GAME STORY: Merkel stops Ballinger in district opener for both clubs

MERKEL — It took a few innings for highly touted Merkel to get it bats going in Tuesday’s District 6-3A opener with Ballinger.

But once the Lady Badgers got started, the complexion of the game turned on a dime — flipping a would-be pitchers’ duel into a 12-2 win via the mercy rule in six innings for MHS.

Eve Rodriguez with 3 for 3 with three RBIs  and Jaycee Tumlinson was 3 for 4 with an RBI to lead Merkel (11-1, 1-0), which pounded out 17 hits en route to the win — 16 of which came in the final four innings. 

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Merkel senior takes this week’s accolade

Somehow or another, Merkel continues to produce quality girls hurdlers – Carly Szabo and Kaydi Pursley, among others.

The latest example: senior Alyssa O’Malley, who is already picking up where she left off a year ago when she posted the second-fasted time in the area.

Last week she took silver in the 100-meter hurdles (15.59), gold in the 300 hurdles (47.75), gold in the high jump (5-4) and gold with the 1,600 relay team at the Ballinger track meet to take our Capital Farm Credit/BCP Player of the Week for the week ending March 5.

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BREAKING: AISD looks north, tabs Lubbock’s Garfield as new Athletic Director

A fast-paced search for a new Athletic Director for the Abilene Independent School District has come to an end with the selection of Jim Garfield to the post.

Garfield, 58, comes to AISD after serving as the Assistant Athletics Director for Lubbock ISD and will replace Phil Blue who is retiring at the end of the school year. Blue announced his retirement at the end of January.

He had been with LISD since early 2017.

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GAME STORY: Sands’ pressure too much for Lady Steers

SAN ANTONIO — In the end, it all came down to Ackerly Sands’ trapping defense in its 60-33 win over Robert Lee in the girls Class 1A state title game Saturday at the Alamodome.

Despite shooting a lower percentage than Robert Lee (.417 to .386) and being outrebounded by a whopping 16 boards, the Lady Mustangs had all the compensation they needed with their relentless defensive pressure. 

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GAME STORY: Stamford rallies to eliminate Haskell as Crabb earns career win No. 700

HASKELL — There are much easier places in the Big Country to secure a road win than Haskell’s “TeePee”. So when Stamford girls coach Joe Crabb lost a coin flip which forced his Lady Bulldogs to face the Maidens there in a Region II-2A quarterfinal on Tuesday, he knew he had a difficult task at hand. 

Crabb got exactly what he expected: A fired-up Haskell team and a raucous crowd which forced Stamford to rally in the fourth quarter for a 57-46 win — the 700th victory in Crabb’s lengthy career. 

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FEATURE: An Unusual Mix — Senior-laden Eagles are led by a freshman

The Goldthwaite boys’ basketball team lists seven seniors on its roster, yet the Eagles’ leading scorer is freshman Luke Sanderson.

A 5-foot-10 guard, Sanderson leads Goldthwaite in scoring at 16.6 points per game, assists at 2.9 per game, steals at 2.1 per game, and free-throw shooting at 74 percent. He also ranks second on the team in rebounds at 6.1 per game and in field goal shooting at 48 percent.

This on a playoff-bound team that has seven seniors in guards Jackson Patrick, Seth Gardner and Saul Vaquera; forwards Cason Guthrie, Bryson Keel and Cole Hermesmeyer; and center Kody Roberts.

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FEATURE: Early’s 6-5 Vic Cooper learns to deal with collapsing defenses

Photos by Mike Jones of MJ Photography and Shayla Kirby

Early High School’s Vic Cooper was a good basketball player last season, when he averaged 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as a junior. But second-year Early coach Eric Davis said Cooper is even better this season as a senior.

“The biggest improvements are in his strength and toughness,” Davis said of the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Cooper. “He’s also improved his ball-handling skills, shooting touch and court vision to make himself a more versatile player. He’s not as raw as he was last year, and he was pretty good last year.”

Another big difference in Cooper this season is his handling of opposing defenses that collapse on him in the paint.

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FEATURE: Jaybirds heading into the playoffs simply wanting to enjoy the experience

When the UIL boys basketball playoffs start this week, Jayton will enter as one of several highly ranked favorites to capture Region I-A.  

A third trip to state in four years would be quite an accomplishment for Ryan Bleiker’s program. However, that’s not on the mind of the longtime Jaybirds coach right now.  

“We really do just try to enjoy the process, enjoy each win,” Bleiker said. “What I never want to happen is that we take things for granted, that winning a bi-district game doesn’t mean as much. I really want us to try and enjoy each moment while also having goals, but those goals will come if we enjoy the process.”  

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GAME STORY: Peaster hits Lady Hawks with two big runs, eliminates Wall 70-41

ABILENE — Locked in a half-court battle with heavily favored Peaster on Friday, the Wall Lady Hawks had the look of a team capable of pulling off a titanic upset at Abilene Christian’s Teague Center. 

That is, until Peaster turned the Region I-3A area round matchup into a full-court game, and literally pressured its way to a 70-41 win. 

Brooklyn Bosher and Payton Hull both scored 24 points with three 3-pointers apiece to lift Peaster (33-4) which advances to face Nocona in the regional quarterfinals next week. 

Leading 27-23 at the break, Peaster used the second of two lengthy runs to put Wall on the ropes, ripping through the third quarter with a 22-5 margin for a 49-28 lead heading into the final period. 

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Big Country Boys Basketball Statistical Leaders (through Feb. 10)

Each Thursday night, Big Country Preps will publish area boys and 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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