SALADO — Salado coach Kenny Mann doesn’t scream at his team often, so when he does, the Eagles know they haven’t held up their end of the bargain.
When it happened in the Eagles’ second game of the Coach Smith Tournament against Lampasas on Thursday, it didn’t take long for the team to shape up.
“When our coach screams at us, we know that we need to pick stuff up,” senior Kole Hearne said with a laugh. “And that’s exactly what we did (in the) second half.”
Down four at the half, No. 24 Salado roared back in the second half, building a 10-point lead before holding off the Badgers for a 55-52 win.
Hearne was a prime example of the heightened sense of urgency on the Eagles’ side, scoring all 12 of his points in the second half after going 0 for 1 in the first two quarters.
He also snagged a game-high 11 rebounds to complete the double-double, which he also gave credit to Mann for after the game.
“Our coach really focuses on blocking out and rebounding,” Hearne said. “Coach gets at us on rebounding, if we don’t we rebound we hear about it later.”
In falling behind 24-20 at halftime, Salado had a hard time defending the Badgers’ ball movement on offense and an even harder time generating any of its own against the Lampasas zone.
Mann said fatigue may have been a factor in the Eagles’ second game of the day after defeating Snook earlier.
“We played a tough game earlier today against a really athletic Snook team,” Mann said. “I think we were tired from that.”
After a prolonged halftime speech by Mann — the Eagles were late returning to the floor for the second half — the tone changed immediately as Tyler Ramthun canned a 3-pointer on the Eagles’ first possession after a nice look from guard Kase Spears.
“We came out, attacked the gaps a little bit more, we moved the ball better and made the defense shift, which we weren’t doing a very good job of in the first half,” Mann said.
Salado scored seven of the next 10 points to go up 31-26 by the 2:14 mark before Lampasas pulled within a point on a 4-0 spurt capped by a two-handed slam in the open court by Shonderius Howard.
But Salado responded again, ripping off an 8-2 run to start the fourth, which Dane Hankamer capped with a steal and a layup for a 45-35 lead.
Lampasas got as close as 50-48 on a steal and layup by Gary Spencer with 1:55 remaining in the game but was never able to tie or take the lead.
Sophomore Preston Rosebrock, the hero of the Eagles’ win against Lampasas just a week earlier, was big again for the Eagles off the bench with 12 points.
Salado was able to avoid a loss on the opening day of the tournament all thanks to a bit of encouragement from its coach.