SALADO — Salado coach Kenny Mann stills sees room for improvement in his No. 18 Eagles, but for a half Tuesday, there certainly wasn’t a lot to critique.
Salado led by as many as 24 points in the first half and took a 19-point lead into the final quarter of an 83-75 win against rival Jarrell to remain perfect in league play at Salado gymnasium.
The victory gave the Eagles (24-3, 10-0 22-2A) a season sweep of the Cougars after splitting the district title with them last year.
“We haven’t always beat them,” Salado senior Kase Spears said, “and going out our senior year, beating them twice, it’s nice.”
Fellow senior Dane Hankamer was a big reason for the Eagles’ success in his final game against the Cougars on Tuesday.
Hankamer scored a team-high 26 points and ripped down 19 rebounds, many of which he immediately put on the floor to help Salado get its transition offense going before Jarrell had a chance to set up its defense.
“We wouldn’t be near what we are without Dane,” Eagles head coach Kenny Mann said. “He’s the real deal, and we’re lucky to have him.”
Salado dominated the first half, scoring the first eight points of the game and holding Jarrell (21-10, 8-2) without a field goal until the 2:56 mark in the first quarter.
The Eagles then responded to the Cougars’ first field goal with a 10-0 run that ended with Chris Deal rattling home a 3-pointer for a 23-6 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the first.
The lead ballooned to 24 in the second quarter as Salado finished the half shooting 59 percent with seven assists as a team, using crisp passes and ball movement to dice the Cougar press.
The Eagles ended the game with 22 of their 30 total field goals coming on layups as they were able to get good looks despite the Cougars’ pressure the entire game.
“Coach Mann came up with a few wrinkles in the press with Kase running out of bounds and then getting a double pass to get it in,” Hankamer said. “So, that was probably a key in the beginning until they figured it out.”
Jarrell, however, never stopped fighting, and began eating away at the Eagle lead, particularly after Spears fouled out with 6:50 to play in the game.
The Cougars finally got the lead down to 10 on a layup by Dacious Barr with 1:32 to play but were never able to mount a serious threat.
Barr scored 18 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter to lead the way for Jarrell.
Preston Rosebrock (14), Kyle Heiner (13) and Tyler Ramthun (10) joined Hankamer in double figures as the Eagles continued to light up the scoreboard in league play.
“Our team motto is ‘we are money,’” Hankamer said with a smile. “I think there were quite a few people tonight that were money.”
And while the Eagles again sit alone in first place in District 22-2A, they have no plans of coasting from here, instead hoping to see Mann make good on a promise to get a tattoo if they go undefeated in district play.
With that in mind, the Eagles aren’t planning on taking it easy any time soon.
“We aren’t going to let up,” Hankamer said.