SALADO — The Salado boys are heading to the championship of the Coach Smith Tournament, and this time they hope to win it for the first time under coach Kenny Mann.
The No. 24 Eagles will be riding a tidal wave of momentum into the championship after defeating Class 4A New Caney Porter 78-66. The Eagles entered the fourth quarter up 20, and the closest the Spartans got after that was 12.
“It’s a new year, and we’re looking to prove something this year,” Eagle senior Dane Hankamer said, “and (Saturday’s) tournament win would be a great start.”
Hankamer led Salado with 21 points and six assists, even besting point guard Kase Spears in the assists category as Spears added 14 points and five assists.
“Kase is a great point guard,” Hankamer said with a laugh, “I can’t compete with him and his assists.”
A day after struggling early against Lampasas and its multiple zones, Salado moved the ball beautifully against the Porter zone, racking up 17 assists as a team.
But where Mann felt the Eagles did the most damage was on the boards, outrebounding the Spartans 34-21, including 11 offensive rebounds.
Senior Kole Hearne was particularly tenacious on the offensive glass, grabbing seven of his 12 rebounds on the offensive end. He also added 17 points for a double-double.
“He’s a beast on the boards,” Mann said of Hearne. “He’s got a knack for getting in position and grabbing rebounds.”
Also in boys action, Lampasas will play two games today, the first of which will be at 11 a.m. against the Queensland Boomerangs of Australia. The Badgers’ last game Friday was a loss to Snook in which the Blue Jays pulled away late for the win.
The Badgers will also play in a placement game in the afternoon.
Weather changes girls bracket
Salado did what it needed to do to earn the No. 1 seed in Pool A, rallying for a 56-54 win against Queensland on Friday morning.
But the Lady Eagles won’t play the bracket as originally planned thanks to Mother Nature, and coach Diane Konarik was actually relieved to find out they’d lose a game as a result.
“In all honesty, I was kind of glad that we had some cancellations,” Konarik said. “It gave the girls a break.”
With weather preventing Waco Connally, McGregor and Snook from returning after the first day of the tournament, Salado’s game against Port Aransas at 9:30 a.m. today is now a semifinal game.
In the other semifinal, Queensland will face the team that defeated Salado in last year’s championship game, Liberty Hill.
To reach the 6:30 p.m. championship, Konarik said her team will have to shoot better after another rough day against Queensland on Friday.
“I told them at one time at halftime, ‘take a towel, wipe your hands off because I don’t know what y’all have on those hands, but we’re losing the ball,’” Konarik said.
But Konarik continues to be encouraged by the Lady Eagles’ defense in the tournament.
Today, the challenge will be to match that play on the offensive end.
“We’ve been really good defensively on getting tips, steals, things like that,” Konarik said, “we’ve just got to finish on the other end.”
Contact Jordan Mason at email@example.com or 254-501-7562