Tag: Evan Ren

EVAN REN: Games worth traveling to in 2019

Got the truck started yet?

Ready to jump on one of those farm-to-market roads to watch high school football into the late hours on a Friday night?

You’re not alone.

And, as tradition would have it, I tip my cap to those of you who will be hitting the trails each week in search of pigskin. My salute: a preseason menu of sorts.

Each week for the next 11 weeks, Big Country Preps will be searching for its Game of the Week, and we’re already looking ahead. We now present our preliminary list of Big Country Games worth traveling for, but keep in mind: the following list is subject to change as surprises and disappointments emerge.

And as we all know … surprises and disappointments always emerge.

So, without further delay, here is our list of Big Country games worth traveling for in 2019.

I’ll see you on the road.

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COMANCHE TEAM PREVIEW: Rebuilding or reloading? Indians hope its the latter

COMANCHE — After six successful years at the helm at Comanche, coach Stephen Hermesmeyer may be facing the single biggest test his program has seen since his arrival there in 2013. 

With three straight district titles under his belt, Hermesmeyer returns only three starters on both sides of the ball this year among 11 lettermen, 

This is the second straight year the Indians have had absorb a large graduating class — virtually depleting them of varsity experience. It is at this point, however, where the foundation of the program can be tested. 

Are the Indians capable of enduring a difficult non-district schedule with a junior-heavy roster, then capturing a seventh-straight playoff berth?   

Put simply, rebuild or reload? 

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DUBLIN TEAM PREVIEW: Lions hope to answer questions in the trenches

DUBLIN — With his team facing a host of questions heading into the 2019 football season, Dublin coach Bob Cervetto remains as upbeat as ever. 

Returning just five starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s 8-3 team, the Lions have taken graduation hits all over the field and on both sides of the ball. 

Despite all the new faces, a sprinkling of proven standouts remain among the starting 22. That, along with an above-average overall maturity level are what Cervetto will be counting on heading into this year’s campaign. 

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FEATURE: Backfield tandem of Callahan and Nichols carrying on Cisco tradition

CISCO — Though they have diversified in recent years, the I-based Cisco Loboes are still known for a straight-ahead approach when it comes to moving the chains. 

At this they’ve been quite successful, posting a 192-40 overall mark since coach Brent West’s arrival 2002, with five trips to state championship games and a title in 2013. 

While generally fielding a team worthy of top-10 consideration, Cisco’s upper-tier teams have almost always possessed three key elements: an excellent offensive line, an effective blocker at fullback and a capable tailback. 

Entering the 2019 season, an untested offensive line will still have to prove itself, but the two other pieces of the puzzle appear to be in place with tailback Stanley Callahan and fullback Cam Nichols. 

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BALLINGER TEAM PREVIEW: Bearcats ready for three-way district dogfight

BALLINGER — It could be argued that third-year Ballinger coach Chuck Lipsey inherited a program at the shallow end of a down cycle in 2017.

It can also be demonstrated that he has gradually taken the Bearcats from mediocrity to the level of area threat. A 4-7 mark in his debut campaign was followed by a 7-4 mark and bi-district loss to Childress last season.

That upward trend is about to continue — at least, if the preseason numbers and natural progression hold true, and the Bearcats avoid injury problems.

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EVAN REN: Albany to pull out all the stops against state champs in Round Rock

Sooner or later, the road to a state championship was going to lead through Big Sandy anyway. So the Albany Lions (23-7) may as well face the top-ranked Wildcats (34-4) in the state semifinals.

Why waste time? 

The Lions will square off with the defending state champs at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. The winner advances to face either Valley Mills (28-6) or Linden-Kildare (20-9) for the state title at noon on Thursday. 

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FEATURE: Ellett finishing the way she started — challenging hitters

Hard curveballs and hard riseballs — most of which are up in the zone, perilously close to a hitter’s wheelhouse.

For much of her high school career, Brownwood ace Chyanne Ellett has lived in that danger zone, matching power against power, thrown at an elevation where hitters tend to like it most. 

In short, she’s good enough to do it — with velocity in the mid-60s, good movement and a knee-buckling changeup, just to keep everyone honest. 

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Edmondson takes this week’s spotlight

For Big Country sports fans, the name of Hallie Rose Edmondson is usually associated with basketball, and it will likely stay that way for some time.

An All-Big Country Preps pick on the hardwood, the Roby senior has been a part of a successful RHS varsity program dating back to 2016 when, as a freshman, she saw significant minutes with the Lady Lions in their march to the state semifinals in San Antonio.

She is now committed to play hoops at Hardin-Simmons University beginning next season and, frankly, I’m not surprised.

It is through track and field, however, that Edmondson has found her way into this week’s area spotlight, qualifying for the state meet in four events to capture our BCP Player of the Week award. 

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EVAN REN: With area softball teams at the starting gate, Big Ev makes his picks

I can’t help but compare a playoff bracket to a horse race, with the bi-district round serving as the starting gate. 

There are favorites, there are possible surprises and there are longshots. And in the end, picking who has the best chance of hitting the finish line at the state tournament is part knowledge and part luck — mostly luck.

 At this track, I’m restricted to making Big Country choices — the area teams I believe have the best chance of getting to McCombs Field at the University of Texas in Austin from May 29-June 1. 

Will a Big Country team have a shot when we get to the home stretch? We shall see. 

Here’s my picks for the 2019 softball playoff run: 

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FEATURE: Stamford’s Gutierrez a legitimate star in the making

STAMFORD — Some people know, the instant they pick up a softball and try to throw it underhand, that they can be good at it.  And those watching with a keen eye for talent recognize it at the exact same time.

In fastpitch parlance, they are what is known as a natural — someone who can perform this difficult task as though it were an afterthought. 

The Big Country is currently being introduced to one of these rarities in Stamford freshman Citlaly Gutierrez, with results that are making area coaches shake their heads in disbelief. 

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GAME STORY: Stamford, Gutierrez, edge Haskell 2-1 to complete district sweep (box score included, photo gallery to come late tonight)

STAMFORD — Entering Thursday’s District 7-2A matchup at Stamford, Haskell coach Eric Simmons knew that his team no margin for error. 

Facing Stamford freshman sensation Citlaly Gutierrez (24-0-1) who had already struck out more than 300 hitters on the season, the Maidens had to be nearly perfect. 

They fell just short, losing 2-1 in a well-pitched, well-played game by both teams. 

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FEATURE: Eastland’s Foster maturing into quality pitcher

EASTLAND — Two years ago as a varsity greenhorn, Eastland pitcher Brynna Foster had a lot of learning to do. 

She had the raw talent to pitch. But her velocity and movement had yet to develop fully. Her changeup came on predictable counts, and as a freshman, she still lacked the poise that only maturity can bring. 

Yet she was still effective enough to help the Lady Mavericks into postseason play, despite her youthful shortcomings. 

Two years later, with improved velocity, and a rise, curve, screwball, drop and changeup that she can deliver on any count, Foster is not only dramatically better, but she’s currently one of the top pitchers in the entire Big Country. 

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GAME STORY: Eastland escapes Comanche sweep (box score and photo gallery w/38 images included)

COMANCHE — For four full innings, the Comanche Maidens looked poised to piece together a season sweep of ninth-ranked Eastland on Tuesday, leading the Lady Mavericks 2-0 heading into the fifth. 

It didn’t happen. 

Plagued by a series of fielding miscues down the stretch, Comanche saw Eastland take the lead for good with three unearned runs over the fifth and sixth frames and escape CHS with a 4-2 win. 

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GAME STORY: Big Spring edges Sweetwater in twice-interrupted thriller (photo gallery to come late tonight)

SWEETWATER — Through 3½ hours, two lightning delays and five jams that saw runners in scoring position, Big Spring right-hander Maddie Daniels somehow managed the outward appearance of being calm in Friday’s game at Sweetwater. 

That was for the benefit of her teammates. 

On the inside, she was anything but relaxed as she battled through a marathon 4-3 win over their District 5-4A rival. 

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FEATURE: Youthful Blizzards one of area’s top surprises in 2019

Picture a high school baseball team that has 10 players who are either freshmen or sophomores. 

Add a stat sheet that has only one home run for the entire ball club through 14 games. And for good measure, add the fact that the team’s top pitcher is a freshman. 

Now try to guess what the team’s record would be at this point.  Sub-.500?  Perhaps .500 at best? 

You’d be incorrect with both estimates. 

The team in question is the 2019 Winters Blizzards, who enter today at 10-4 overall (6-2 in District 7-2A), having already posted more wins than they’ve managed over the past two years combined. 

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FEATURE: Clyde pitching trio equips Bulldogs for possible playoff run

CLYDE — While it isn’t impossible for a high school baseball team to reach the state tournament without pitching depth, one would likely need two things in order to achieve it: extraordinary hitting and/or extraordinary luck.

Both avenues are longshots, with hitting serving as compensation and luck helping the pitching-challenged to avoid three-game series via successful coin flips. 

The 2019 Clyde Bulldogs (18-4, 7-1 District 5-3A) have no such concern. And it’s a good thing, coming in a region that features Wall, Brock and Breckenridge — ranked first, third and 15th respectively by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association. 

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FEATURE: Relaxed, confident, Buckaroos just having fun

Even before they had pulled off a stunning upset of Brock on Friday night, there were whispers that the 2019 Breckenridge baseball team was one of the best the Buckaroos have ever fielded. 

Friday’s 3-0 win over the top-ranked Eagles might confirm it in the long run, though a 19-2-1 start may suffice in the view of some. 

In the meantime, first-year coach Kevin Bartley’s crew is bringing a noticeable level of relaxed confidence to the table in a season where one of their primary goals from the outset was to simply enjoy the game. 

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FEATURE: Cisco’s Hearne combines work ethic with criticism to excel at everything

CISCO — He’s a noteworthy football player. He’s one of area’s best prep basketball players. He’s a standout in the making in baseball who is also solid in track. 

Whether or not he has any time to sleep after completing his studies, only Cisco’s Gibson Hearne knows for sure. 

One thing is certain: Hearne has worked his way into elite status among the Big Country’s top multi-sport athletes. 

The best news for Cisco? He’s just a junior. 

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GAME STORY: Hawley edges Albany 3-2, takes district lead

ALBANY — A troublesome first inning and a late unearned run were all that separated area rivals Hawley and Albany in Friday’s District 8-2A showdown at AHS. 

Hawley’s Dylan Frazier outdueled Albany’s Ben West in a 3-2 win for the Bearcats, who gradually built a 3-0 lead before surviving a seventh-inning rally by the Lions. 

Kolter Willeford with 1 for 2 with a walk, a sacrifice and two RBIs and Robert Ybarra plated two runs to lead Hawley, which managed to pull off the win despite charting only four hits.  

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GAME STORY: De Leon holds on to beat Goldthwaite

DE LEON — One inning made all the difference.  A shot in the arm for De Leon. A disaster for Goldthwaite. 

A seven-run second inning eruption pushed DHS to an important 8-6 win over the visiting Lady Eagles on Tuesday, giving De Leon (17-4, 6-1) a one-game lead over Goldthwaite (8-7, 5-2) for first place in District 9-2A.  

Micaela Miller and Coral Sparger both had two hits and two RBIs and Kylea De La Torre was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple to lead De Leon, which built and early 7-1 lead before holding on for the win. 

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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: 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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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: 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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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: 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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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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GAME STORY: Jim Ned falls to Idalou in overtime heartbreaker (box score, video & photo gallery w/35 images included)

PLAINVIEW — Missed opportunities. Missed free throws. Turnovers. 

It may take a while for the sting of Friday’s 41-36 overtime loss to Idalou in a Region I-3A semifinal to finally subside for the Jim Ned Lady Indians, who staged an improbable comeback at Wayland Baptist University, only to see their season slip away in the end. 

Shaylee Stovall scored game-high 22 points to pace Idalou (31-5), which squares off with Wall (31-1) in the Region I-3A title game at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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GAME STORY: Wall girls rally to eliminate Brock (w/ two videos, box score & photo gallery w/37 images included)

PLAINVIEW — In the end, it all came down to how many extra shots were taken. 

Pounding the glass for 14 offensive rebounds, the top-ranked Wall Lady Hawks got 16 extra shots in their 56-49 win over Brock in Friday’s Region I-3A semifinal at Wayland Baptist University. 

That, combined with a 15-7 disparity in turnovers, was a handicap that Brock had no answer for as Wall (31-1) advanced to Saturday’s regional title game. There, they will face third-ranked Idalou (31-5), which closed the semifinal doubleheader with a 41-36 overtime win over Jim Ned. 

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GAME STORY: Brock uses huge third quarter to eliminate Colorado City (w/ two videos, box score and photo gallery)

CISCO — For two full quarters, the unranked Colorado City Wolves played No. 1 Brock to a near standstill at Ray Saunders Gym, heading into the locker room trailing 27-24. 

The third quarter, however, brought a stark reminder of why Brock entered this week sitting atop the rankings, with a backbreaking 20-3 run to put the game out of reach in just eight minutes. 

Bradon Smith scored 19 points and Scott Thomas tossed in 18 more to lead Brock, which then cruised to a 60-47 win. 

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GAME STORY: Cisco pressure overwhelms Coahoma in 68-39 win (box score, video and photo gallery w/22 images included)

Perhaps it was a case of first-round nerves for Cisco, or perhaps Coahoma was simply better than some in the Big Country basketball community believed. 

Either way, the heavily favored Loboes (28-3) had to overcome a sluggish start before taking control of Tuesday’s 3A bi-district matchup at ACU’s Moody Coliseum, and eventually dominating it in a 68-39 win. 

Gibson Hearne tossed in 27 points and Izzy Adame added 11 more to lift Cisco, which advances to face Childress in the area round. 

The Loboes trailed twice in the early going, and as late as the 2:00 mark in the first quarter when a Bryson Cline layup gave the Bulldogs an 11-10 edge. From that moment forward, however, Cisco’s full-court defensive pressure was a game changer, leading to 17-0 run which spanned to the 5:12 mark of the second quarter. 

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned girls advance to regional tourney with win over Cisco (box score, video & photo gallery w/31 images included)

A few short runs, coupled with a heavy dose of consistent defense lifted the Jim Ned Lady Indians to a 46-31 win over Cisco in a Region I-3A quarterfinal on Tuesday. 

With a large contingent of fans backing both clubs at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum, Jim Ned (29-5) earned a trip to the regional quarterfinals behind 13 points from Libby Tutt and eight each from Claire Graham and Jenna Moore. 

Clinging to a 15-13 lead late in the second quarter, the Lady Indians gained a permanent upper hand with a 7-0 run to close the first half.  They gradually stretched their lead to 34-22 by the end of the third period, never allowing Cisco to score more than single digits in any quarter. 

Cisco closed its season at 30-4, led by Katelyn Bird with 10 points and Leigh Anne Montell with 8. 

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned escapes Early upset bid (box score, two videos & photo gallery included)

COLEMAN — Cruising along with a comfortable 37-25 lead after three quarters in Monday’s 3A bi-district game with Early, the Jim Ned Indians were poised to advance into the area round. 

There was just one problem: The Early Longhorns. 

Staging a furious rally through the final quarter, Early opened the period with a 10-0 run to cut the gap to 37-35 with 17 seconds to play, only to see Jim Ned escape the upset with a 39-35 win at Coleman High School.  

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EVAN REN: This week in Big Country girls basketball (Feb. 17-23)

With the regional semifinal round just one victory away, a dozen Big Country teams are still alive with hopes of reaching the Texas high school equivalent of the Sweet 16.  

This week’s regional quarterfinal round will be accompanied by two things: pure elation and pure devastation once the final horns blow. And not all of our area clubs will be among the survivors.  

Nonetheless, I’ll go out on a limb and say no fewer than six Big Country teams will retain a pulse after Tuesday night. 

That said, let’s have a look what’s on tap. 

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