The goal was to get to the 2A-Region III tournament.
It proved to be a loftier accomplishment than the Salado Eagles may understand even now.
Arguably the toughest 2A region in the state — the only one that included four teams ranked in the top 20 – and seniors Austin Adams and Brandon Womac had the Eagles right in the mix.
“It’s a tough region, there are some real tough teams in Region III,” Salado coach Kenny Mann said. “I think going as far as we did showed that we had those types of players and both of those guys had the numbers and just did the things for our team that they needed to do.”
With the help of a loaded roster full of teammates each capable of “lighting teams up,” Adams and Womac earned All-Region III distinction from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches earlier this week.
“I thought Dane Hankamer was probably really close to getting all-region himself. I mean, his numbers were really close to Austin’s and Brandon’s. … Or Kase Spears, on a given night, would light them (opposing teams) up if they tried to focus too much on Austin and Brandon,” Mann said. “And then, Kyle Heiner would come off the bench and light them up.
“You couldn’t really focus on just those two because we had other guys who were just as dangerous on given nights.”
Austin and Womac were among seven area players to make the TABC all-region teams.
Ellison’s Ojai Black, the District 8-5A MVP, and Copperas Cove’s Cory Scott made the 5A-Region I team and Gatesville’s Tobias Moore was on the 3A-Region I team.
District 8-5A co-MVP Jasmine Goodwine (Killeen), a Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State selection, and Temple’s Ketara Chapel, who’s signed with Mississippi State, made the 5A-Region I girls team.
Black, the 2013 Daily Herald All-Area Boys Basketball MVP, averaged 18.3 points, nearly six assists and four rebounds per game to lead the Eagles to their 19th straight playoff appearance and first district title since 2004.
Scott, a Stephen F. Austin signee and the District 8-5A Offensive MVP, led the Bulldawgs to their first playoff appearance since 2008 by averaging 24.3 points per game.
Moore, the District 8-3A Defensive MVP, led the Hornets in scoring (15.5 points) and assists (4.4) per game, and averaged 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks a game.
Goodwine, a 6-foot, four-year letterman who signed with Rice in November, averaged 19.5 points and 8.9 rebounds a game this season to lead the Lady Roos to their ninth consecutive playoff appearance.
Adams, the District 22-2A co-MVP, was Salado’s leading scorer, averaging 16 points and 8.1 rebounds a game. And Womac, the 22-2A co-Offensive MVP, wasn’t too far behind, scoring 15 points per game, pulling down 6.1 rebounds and racking up 3.2 steals per game.
The Salado duo led the Eagles’ longest playoff run since 2005, but the season abruptly ended with a regional semifinal loss to No. 3 White Oak, which went on to win its second straight 2A title. The Region III tournament also included No. 2 Tatum, which upset top-ranked Kountze in an area-round playoff game earlier in the playoffs, and No. 14 Jarrell, which shared the District 22-2A title with the 16th-ranked Eagles.
“That (tournament) was really stacked,” Mann said. “I think Jarrell or us, either one, had we been back in Region IV, had a great chance to win that region.
“I don’t know if they really realize what could’ve been in other regions, but it is what it is,” Mann added. “You’ve got to play where you’re put. I thought our guys battled really well where we were,”