BRUCEVILLE-EDDY — In the past two seasons, Salado has won 58 games. Because of a late-game struggle rarely seen during the stretch, though, the Eagles won’t be adding to that total.
Salado didn’t score in the final 2½ minutes, and Marlin took advantage for a 7-0 run to stun the 17th-ranked Eagles 51-50 Tuesday night in a Class 2A Region III quarterfinal.
Salado (30-4) had its 20-game winning streak snapped and was denied a return trip to the regional tournament.
The winning points came on a running shot in the lane by Paul Humphrey with 14 seconds remaining. After a scramble gave Salado the ball out of bounds near midcourt with 4 seconds left, Dane Hankamer’s 12-foot runner along the baseline was too long.
In his final game for Salado, Hankamer led all players with 23 points on 9 for 14 shooting and had seven rebounds.
“That was the play we were looking for at the end, but they did a good job covering it,” Hankamer said. “It’s not how we wanted it to end, but we’re definitely proud of what we accomplished this season.”
Salado’s last basket was a fast-break bucket by Kyle Heiner with 2:33 remaining,
After Humphrey missed a free throw with 2:13 remaining, the Bulldogs (16-13) stole an outlet pass and Devlon Noble Jr., made a jumper to cut Salado’s lead to 50-47. The Eagles committed 22 turnovers to only nine for Marlin.
“That play hurt quite a bit, but we made quite a few more turnovers than what we usually do,” Salado coach Kenny Mann said. “In the end, it came down to that they executed and we didn’t.”
Salado point guard Kase Spears, playing with a pulled pectoral muscle suffered in the last round, missed the front end of one-and-one free throw situations with 1:31 and 1:08 remaining.
“Kase really gutted it out. He was so hurt he could hardly lift his arms,” Mann said.
Marquise Womack made two free throws after making a steal with 1:22 remaining to cut Salado’s lead to 50-49. After scoring 20 points in an area-round win over Academy, Womack was held to 12 points on 5 for 20 shooting.
Marlin’s most effective offensive weapon was Humphrey. Beating Salado defenders off the dribble multiple times, he had 21 points, four assists and three steals.
A key component of Marlin’s upset was its defense. Using a 2-3 zone, the Bulldogs held the Eagles 17 points below their season average.
“Normally Womack is our big gun, but Womack and Humphrey can go back and forth,” Marlin coach Devlon Noble Sr., said. “My No. 1 priority was playing tougher than them on offense and defense.”
Salado’s run over the last two seasons was anchored by five starting seniors: Hankamer, Spears, Kyle Heiner, Kole Hearne and Tyler Ramthun.
Hearne recorded a double-double in his last game with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Maybe as a whole I’ll miss this group of seniors more than any other,” Mann said. “When you have them that long that long it’s hard to remember what it’s like without them. It will be weird not having them around.”