SALADO— The Eagles went undefeated on the first day of the 17th annual Coach Smith Memorial Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
The yearly event is held in honor of long-time Salado ISD head football coach and athletic director U.G. Smith, and there were 12 teams registered this year.
Salado opened the tournament with a 72-49 victory over Jarrell.
“The way we’ve set up our schedule, it just keeps getting harder and harder as we go,” Salado head coach Kenny Mann said, “but I like what my team is doing.
“Jarrell is always a good, physical team, and I thought we handled them well today.”
Gatesville also started the first day of play with a victory, beating Caldwell 72-44 before going head-to-head with the Eagles.
Salado quickly overwhelmed the Hornets by embarking on a 12-0 run behind Sammy Brown’s consecutive 3-pointers.
Gatesville battled back, but Salado held the Hornets to just nine points in the first quarter despite a 3-point shot from Tyler Lewis.
“Gatesville is extremely well-coached,” Mann said. “(Lewis) is phenomenal, and I thought my guys did a great job of handling the game plan on him for most of the game.”
Eagles junior guard Eli Pittman increased the pace in the second quarter by making a 3-point shot off an inbound pass to pull Salado further ahead at 23-9.
On the very next play, Peyton Miller found Pittman waiting in the corner once more to add another three points on the board for the Eagles.
Salado had a 19-point cushion, 43-24, at halftime.
Pittman started the second half with another outside shot, but Lewis answered back with a fade away
Lewis led the Hornets with 26 points and brought Gatesville within nine points, 65-56, in the last five minutes of play.
Fouls added up for Gatesville, and the Eagles went 2-0 on the day with a 76-61 win.
“It felt good to see my guys execute what we talked about before the game,” Mann said.
Lady Eagles split games
The Lady Eagles also started the morning in the win column as they took down Cameron Yoe 58-29.
Salado advanced to take on Decatur in the afternoon, but was quickly out played as the Lady Eagles had three turnovers in the first two minutes of play.
Decatur won the rebounding battle against the Lady Eagles and defensively held them to just two points in the first quarter, 16-2.
Lexie Lima, a senior, found her stride at the start of the next quarter as she made back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Decatur’s lead in half, 20-10.
Decatur held the Lady Eagles to just two points to start the second half, and Salado couldn’t find an answer to Decatur’s offense as they fell 42-28.