SALADO — Hadley Joiner tries not to think about it.

Jenna Sebek admitted it's crossed her mind recently.

But for Salado's Katy Clark, just the thought of playing her final high school basketball game brought tears to her eyes.

"I cried one day thinking about it," said Clark, as Joiner playfully cradled her head.

"It's going to be emotional, it's going to be hard."

With each next game — including Friday's area round playoff showdown with No. 12 Hondo — the Lady Eagles senior trio near closer to the culmination of more than a decade of playing side-by-side. Salado (16-16) plays Hondo (26-5) at 7:30 p.m. at Fredericksburg High School.

"It warms my heart to see them go out the way they are," second-year Salado coach Jeanette McKinney said. "We've battled all year, and they've just made up their minds that they're going to do it right, and that permeates to the rest."

Like most long-standing relationships, their story began on the playground in the second grade.

Although none remembered the exact circumstances of their first encounter, each confirmed their relationship was built around a love of sports.

"We invented a game once — it was (a combination of) soccer, volleyball and basketball — that's what we remember the most," Clark said. "Good times, good times."

But, as with most made-up childhood games, the actual rules were secondary to the fun.

"It was just a free-for-all," Clark said

"We were just being creative," Joiner added.

With a chemistry that creates confidence on and off the court, the seniors have fostered a belief that success is part of the natural progression for Salado girls sports.

"It's everything. They've left a legacy that's going to be hard to live up to," McKinney said. "It's nice because the younger ones know that and they want to achieve that, they want to hit that standard."

It's that foundation that has everyone seeing one more playoff run in them.

"(Tuesday) night we put in the freshmen, and that reminded us of our sophomore year when in the first game we put in our freshmen and we went to state," Sebek said, referring to the 2009 run to the 2A state semifinal. "So now we've got big hopes."

"Yeah, hopefully it's a repeat of sophomore year, ... only going farther in state," Joiner added.

"Like winning state," Clark interjected.

But such lofty hopes aren't foreign for the elder group of Lady Eagles. They've dealt with heightened expectations since before they walked the Salado hallways.

As bright-eyed seventh graders, this year's senior class — which also includes Brennan Boydstun, who's missed the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament — was being called a "Dream Team" for their already blossoming athletic potential.

"It's been our dream since seventh grade that we're going to go to state in basketball, and I still think she has that for us, but it's hard not having her out here," Sebek said.

Despite the potential, the on-the-court success peaked their sophomore year.

That's when a senior-led Lady Eagles volleyball team advanced to the Region IV-2A championship in Fall 2008 before the youthful girls basketball team shocked even themselves with a 2A state tournament berth. Since then, it's been one postseason disappointment after another as key injuries have resulted in one-and-done exits the last two volleyball seasons and last basketball season.

But as long as there are still games to be played, the seniors are striving for more.

"That's something you can't coach, you can't teach that," McKinney said. "And the love that they all share just makes the team stronger — it makes for great leadership, and it makes it fun."

Which is why no one is ready to see it end any time soon.

Contact Alex Byington at or (254) 501-7566.

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