Kyle Heiner was feeling it during warmups.
Hitting 8 of his 10 tries from deep during a game of “42,” the Salado junior reserve could sense something was coming.
The rest of his Salado teammates felt it in the third quarter as Heiner scored eight of his career-high 17 points during a 26-1 run over an eight-minute span between the third and fourth quarters to spark the 16th-ranked Eagles in a 62-33 bi-district win over Crawford on Tuesday night at Shoemaker High School.
“Sometimes people just need a spark, and once they get that spark going, they can’t be stopped,” Heiner said. “Anything can happen.”
Salado advances to play District 23 champion Marlin at 8 p.m. Friday at Waco Midway after Eagles head coach Kenny Mann won the coin toss.
One beneficiary of Heiner’s spark was senior wing Brandon Womac, who scored a game-high 18 points — including a pair of 3-pointers during the third-quarter run — and added eight rebounds and two steals.
“He’s got a great shot, he’s a really good set shooter, and if we tee him up, he’ll start knocking down shot after shot,” Womac said of Heiner. “He just hasn’t come out and proven himself yet, and now he’s starting to come along.”
Admittedly overconfident entering the game following a 61-point blowout (91-30) of the Pirates early last season, the Eagles led 9-2 five minutes into the game, but Crawford had its own spark from reserve Zek Kleypas, who hit four straight buckets to pull within 11-10 by the end of the first quarter.
But Heiner, who’s previous high was 10 points, hit his first 3-pointer with 2:42 left in the first half to put Salado (25-8) back on top 17-16 and added a second trey falling down with 52 seconds left as the Eagles went into halftime leading 24-18.
“We want him to come off the bench and be a spark for us, and he was that huge spark tonight — huge,” Mann said of Heiner.
But the spark had already been lit.
Following a short jumper by Crawford’s Colten Clayton 52 seconds into the third quarter, Heiner nailed a jumper a foot inside the 3-point line, stole the ball and fed teammate Kase Spears for a fast-break score, drained a deep 3 at the 4:43 mark and then was fouled on a trey try and made all three free throws to put Salado up 34-21 with 3:18 remaining in the frame.
“I think we just picked up the intensity a lot,” Heiner said. “That first half was kind of flat, and then whenever I hit those couple of 3s back-to-back, it just picked up everything.”
Then Womac got into the act, bookending a fast-break layup with two 3s of his own and Spears hit a pair of free throws as the Eagles outscored Crawford 22-3 in the third quarter and led 46-21 entering the fourth.
“Defensively, I don’t think we were doing as good a job of making them put the ball on the floor — that’s kinda their weakness: passing and making quick decisions,” Mann said. “And we did a better job in the third quarter of getting steals and some transition baskets that helped.”
The run stretched 1½ minutes into the fourth quarter as Womac and fellow senior Dane Hankamer hit a pair of free throws each to pull ahead 50-21. The Pirates (15-11) turned the ball over nine times and were 0-for-8 shooting before Clayton hit a running layup with 6:23 to play for Crawford’s first bucket since his last make at the 7:08 mark of the third quarter.