BRENHAM — Not even a week ago the Salado Eagles overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and a deadly 3-point shooter in an area-round win over Marlin.
So when Trinity’s JeMarqus McCullough nailed a deep 3-pointer to give Tigers a 12-10 edge at the end of the first quarter, the Eagles weren’t worried.
Salado dominated the second quarter en route to a 60-54 win over the Tigers in a Class 2A Region III quarterfinal Tuesday night at Brenham High School.
“I almost want to compare it to the Marlin game,” Salado’s Dane Hankamer said. “Even though we were winning most of this one, just like we did against Marlin, we knew they were going to try as hard as they could to come back. We just knew we couldn’t let them do that.”
With the win, the No. 16-ranked Eagles (28-8) advance to the region tournament at Stephen F. Austin’s Johnson Coliseum in Nacogdoches and plays No. 2 White Oak (33-1) at 6 p.m. Friday. The other semifinal will pit Salado’s District 22-2A rival and co-champion No. 14 Jarrell (31-3) against No. 3 Tatum (29-9).
Trinity (24-11) shot less than 30 percent. But the Tigers’ ability to grab rebounds kept them in contention most of the game.
“On their shots they were getting long rebounds,” Mann explained. “And when you are in position for the rebound, it makes it difficult to get them sometimes when the go long.”
A lot of those shots were 3-pointers, and the Tigers’ game plan seemed to be to put up as many 3s as possible and fight for the rebound.
Last Friday against Marlin, the Eagles were blistered by the 3 by Ladarian Hopwood, who hit five 3s in a 30-point performance. But unlike the game against Marlin, in which the Eagles didn’t make their comeback until the fourth quarter, they took control quickly in the second quarter Tuesday.
Austin Adams (17 points) grabbed an offensive rebound off a shot by Brandon Womac and tied the game with a basket with just under a minute gone by in the second quarter. After a missed 3-pointer by the Tigers, Hankamer, who led Salado with 20 points, found himself open under the basket and put the Eagles up 14-12. More missed 3s by Trinity, two free throws by Adams and a 3 from Kyle Heiner from the right corner gave the Eagles a 19-12 lead and helped Salado take a 26-22 lead into halftime.
The Tigers missed seven consecutive 3s before they made one with less than a minute to play, which only cut the lead to 58-54.
“Our goal in the fourth was to not rush and turn the ball over,” Mann said. “We were trying to be smart, not give up any layups, and if we had a layup, take it. We weren’t going to jack up needless points.”