On Tuesday, the Salado Eagles proved to head coach Kenny Mann they can come back and win a postseason contest after playing a sluggish first half.
Mann let his players know he needs no further proof.
“We were very flat in the first half on Tuesday, and just didn’t come out ready to play,” said Eagle starting guard Kyle Heiner.
In a Class 2A bi-district contest, the No. 17-ranked Eagles led Hamilton 26-21 at halftime then expanded that lead to 48-33 heading into the final frame. Salado ultimately prevailed 72-51.
“Fortunately, we picked things up in that second half, both offensively and defensively, and came out with the win,” Heiner said.
At 7 tonight, Salado faces Hempstead at Giddings High School. The Eagles, 29-3, are riding a 20-game win streak. Hempstead is 20-13.
“We want to start fast,” said Heiner, a 5-foot-10 senior. “We need to make sure we’re focused on this game right from the start.”
Mann was pleased with the Eagles’ performance at Thursday’s practice.
“I liked that our guys were very focused all practice,” Mann said. “We spent a lot of time perfecting the things we like to do. We worked very hard on defense, which will be very important because we’ll be facing a team with a very good point guard.”
That guard is DeMarlo Perez, a 5-foot-8 speedster.
“While Kase Spears will be guarding (Perez), I know that I still have to play my tail off defensively,” Heiner said. “Coach Mann told us this is one of the better teams we’ve faced all year, so it’s important that we’re all working hard on defense.”
Salado has the height advantage and Mann figures his club will be operating against a zone.
“From the films I have watched and from scouting them, they like zone before they think man,” Mann said. “They like a 1-2-2 and a 2-3. They don’t tend to switch between those two. They’ll start with the zone they think is best and if it’s not working, they’ll switch to the other one. And if that doesn’t work, then they’ll go man.”
In 2013, Salado advanced to the Region III-2A semifinal contest.
“Because my starting five and sixth man all have had playoff experience before, I don’t think we’ll come out nervous against Hempstead,” Mann said.
“We’re excited to have another chance to play in another postseason playoff game,” Heiner said. “Now, the key is for us to play a strong game — right from the beginning.”