SALADO — The Salado Eagles knew that if they were going to knock off the top team in District 25-4A Friday night they would have to play one of their best games of the season.
It did not happen as the Eagles never led in the contest. Taylor won 70-50.
“Taylor is the first-place team in our district for a reason”, said Salado head coach Kenny Mann. “They are aggressive and extremely athletic.”
The game did not start well for host Salado.
Three minutes into the contest, Taylor held an 8-0 lead that they never looked back on.
The Eagles scored their first basket of the game on a Peyton Kyburz 3-pointer. The Eagles added two more 3-pointers in the quarter by Trevor Stump and Preston Rosebrock and Salado trailed 18-9 after one period.
In the second quarter, Kyburz stole the ball from Taylor’s Xavier Washington and passed ahead to Justin Tatum for an easy layup to pull Salado to within eight points, 23-15.
The quarter ended when Kyburz hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left but Taylor’s B.J. Tealer took the inbound pass and drove all the way in for a buzzer-beating layup.
The Eagles trailed 39-22 at halftime.
“They are fast, big, and can jump,” Rosebrock said. “They held us with their tight, pressure defense that gave us some problems.”
The Ducks half-court, man-to-man defense bothered Salado all game.
But Salado did not quit. Right out of the halftime break, the Eagles went on a 6-2 run to pull within 13.
“We kept with it and kept battling,” Rosebrock said. “Our guys battled all game and never gave up.”
Rosebrock added a 3-pointer from the corner, Anthony Young added a layup and Willie Wigham added a floater from the free-throw line to give the Eagles life again.
It didn’t last long. Taylor forced back-to-back steals that resulted in layups.
The quarter ended when Tatum stole the ball at midcourt and found Stump for the basket.
For the second straight game, Salado hit eight 3-pointers.
“We knew Salado would give us a fight tonight, because they are fighting for a playoff spot,” said Taylor head coach Justin Boswell. “Coach Mann does a great job of coaching, because they have great shooters.”
Kyburz, Stump, and Rosebrock scored 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The night wasn’t all bad as the Eagles playoffs hopes are still alive because Lampasas fell to Burnet.
Salado and Lampasas meet for a crucial game Tuesday night in Salado.
A Lampasas win means the Badgers head to the playoffs as the fourth team out of the district.
If Salado wins, the two teams will meet again for a tie-breaker game to determine who heads to the playoffs.
“I feel that if we play like we can play, I like our odds because I think we have the guys on the floor to get that done Tuesday night,” Mann said.