SALADO — Salado did not want to lose, but the Eagles feel they are better for it.
After going undefeated through the first two days of the Coach Smith Tournament, the host team found itself in a battle of top-25 teams in the championship round, facing Class 3A No. 22 Navasota.
While the outcome was not what the Eagles hoped for, losing 63-47, it might have been exactly what they needed.
“I think playing good, ranked teams will get you better in the long run,” Salado senior Tyler Ramthun said. “Whenever we go play those teams that have been playing teams that aren’t as good, I think we’ll have a better outcome.”
The squads went back and forth in the first half with Class 2A No. 24 constructing a four-point advantage, 25-21, on Dane Hankamer’s basket in the paint late in the second quarter.
Then the Rattlers made a run.
Navasota scored 16 unanswered points bridging the second and third quarter and led 37-25 before Salado guard Kyle Heiner ended the streak with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left in the period.
Although the Eagles were able to make things interesting late in the game, they could never completely climb out of the hole.
“(The Rattlers) are so quick, and they can switch all the screens,” Salado head coach Kenny Mann said. “Every one of their guys is quick enough to cover every one of our guys, and so being able to put pressure on us like they did there just caused turnovers. They did a great job of executing off the turnovers and finishing.”
The Eagles (9-3) climbed back into the game in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 53-47 on Ramthun’s free throw, but Navasota responded by scoring the game’s final 10 points.
Salado senior Dane Hankamer scored a team-high 15 points to go with five rebounds and earned all-tournament honors along with teammates Spears and Kole Hearne, who finished with five points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“I was really satisfied with the tournament overall,” Spears said. “We played four real close games and came out on top in all of those, but just fell short in the championship game.”
Eagles senior guard Kyle Heiner, who scored 10 points, agreed the tournament was beneficial, especially because of the way the team responded after falling behind.
“This shows that we can hang with the big boys,” he said. “I was really proud of us for the way we handled this game. I was kind of scared going into it, but I feel good about it now.”
Lady Eagles place third: Salado endured a tough start, but the Lady Eagles finished strong.
In their opening game of the day, Salado simply could not get enough shots to fall and had its hopes of reaching the Coach Smith Tournament finals crushed by Port Aransas. Nevertheless, the Lady Eagles made the best of their situation and defeated Australian traveling team Queensland 44-37 to finish third overall.
The Lady Marlins used a 16-point second quarter to build a 24-16 lead and did not let up, beating Salado 48-39 in the Lady Eagles first game of the day. Senior Jaylee Sebek scored a team-high 11 points for Salado, and Taryn Kornegay added nine, but it was not enough.
A lengthy break between games left the Lady Eagles (9-3) renewed, however, and they outscored Queensland in every quarter except the fourth as they secured third place behind a team-high 14 points from Kornegay.
While Salado head coach Diane Konarik was disappointed to not have an opportunity to play for the championship, she feels the tournament helped prepare her team for the most important time of the season.
Badgers finish fourth: After earning a slim victory to start the day, Lampasas suffered a thee-point loss to conclude its run at the Coach Smith Tournament, finishing fourth in the 10-team field.
Led by Gary Spencer’s game-high 21 points, the Badgers narrowly defeated Australian traveling team Queensland 49-47. Lampasas trailed 11-8 following the first quarter, but outscored the Boomerangs 18-9 in the second quarter as James Radenz scored six of his 11 points in the period to take a six-point advantage, 26-20, into halftime.
Ellison boys win Bronze Bracket in Georgetown: Malik Malone scored 13 points and the Eagles beat Humble 43-38 to win the Bronze Bracket at the Jack Frost Tournament in Georgetown.
Ellison (6-1) was originally scheduled to play in a tournament at Mansfield, but play was canceled by a winter storm. Instead, the Eagles found a vacancy in Georgetown, replacing Austin Lanier, which had already lost two games, in the Bronze Bracket.
Ellison won all three of its games in the tourney, rolling past Pasadena Rayburn 78-41 earlier Saturday. The Eagles routed Dallas Carter 78-53 Friday.
Six Eagles scored at least nine points in the win over Rayburn, led by Tony Martin and Ronnie Edwards, who each scored 11.
Ellison had its hands full with Humble, but outscored the Wildcats 13-3 in the fourth quarter.