By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Liberty Hill rolled through District 25-3A play unscathed.
The No. 7 Panthers nearly did the same through the all-district superlative honors.
The only thing keeping them from a perfect sweep was the standout defensive prowess of a pair of gritty guards from Lampasas and Salado.
Embracing their role as lock-down defenders, both Lampasas junior Brandon Scott and Salado senior Jacob Heiner were named co-Defensive MVPs when the all-district list was announced Friday.
"Defensively, (Scott) could pretty much guard 1-4 and all year we always had him guard the toughest matchups," first-year Badgers coach Rob Shivers said. "He had versatility, and he had a lot of toughness, which any good defender has to have.
"Most of the time those guys that are tough defensively are doing it a lot more with their want-to than just athleticism."
For the 5-foot-8 Heiner, it was more about effort and sheer heart.
"(Heiner was) always hustling, always making plays, and even the way he'd run our zone, being in the right spots made us better defensively all year long," Salado coach Kenny Mann said.
Liberty Hill senior guard Sam Beans was selected as the overall Most Valuable Player while 6-foot-5 senior teammate Ty Dean was picked as the Offensive MVP. Newcomer of the Year went to Panthers sophomore Shane LaCaille.
While Heiner led the Eagles (21-9, 6-4) in assists (104) and steals (71), his biggest impact came as the team's unquestioned captain.
"Not everybody has that ability to take on that (leadership) role," Mann said. "You can have a point guard that can play the position and get the ball to people to get their points, but still not have that standout leadership quality. And Jacob had that."
Although more of a pass-first point guard, Heiner showed flashes of his ability to score when called upon, leading the Eagles to three straight wins to wrap up district play. During that playoff push, which ended with an area-round loss to Somerset, Heiner averaged 14 points per game including a 20-point barrage in a must-win game against Burnet on Feb. 8.
Earning first-team consideration for Salado were senior scorers in 6-7 post Braxton Tucker and guard Tony Sager, who averaged 12.4 and 12 points per game, respectively.
But it was the 6-1 Sager, playing his first varsity season with Salado after transferring the year before, who made the biggest impact while leading the Eagles in rebounds (209) despite generally being one of the smaller players on the team.
"He really just amazed me all season long with the stuff he was able to do just on pure hustle," Mann said of Sager.
Lampasas (15-17, 3-7) senior big man Lazarus Salazar, who didn't play organized basketball the two previous years, also earned a first-team nod after averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game in district play, including a season-high 28 points in a 61-55 win over Salado.
"He's a kid that really got his own baskets, and then when we needed tough baskets, he'd get those too," Shivers said.
Also named to the first team were Burnet junior Grant Cole, the Liberty Hill senior pair of Justin Green and Josh Woodbury, and the Taylor duo of senior DeMarea Kerley and junior Jarvis Caldwell.