SALADO It was all about fast starts.
Jumping out to early leads, the Salado boys and girls basketball teams gave the home fans plenty to cheer about Friday, the second day of the ninth annual Coach Smith Memorial basketball tournament.
After the Lady Eagles pressured their way to the bronze trophy, their Eagle counterparts did them one better by advancing to the tournament championship game with a dominating 57-35 semifinal victory over Waco Connally. It will be the first time the Salado boys have been in the championship game of their own tournament since winning it in all in 2002 and 2003.
"We're excited about it," Salado coach Kenny Mann said of playing for the title. "... We've played well in this tournament and did what we needed to do to get there, so we feel it's icing on the cake just to get to play in it."
It was the third straight rout for the hot Eagles (8-1), who easily dispatched Austin Travis 79-40 earlier Friday and rolled over Aubrey, 55-33, on Thursday. Salado will play No. 13 Liberty Hill in the title game at 3 p.m. today.
The Eagles got out to a blazing start against Connally, scoring nine straight points before Cadets guard Dontay Raglin hit the first of a one-and-one midway through the first quarter. But Salado continued to pile it on, leading 17-1 mere minutes later and 26-5 after the first frame.
With 6-foot-7 post Braxton Tucker scoring 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, that effort continued in the second quarter as Salado went into halftime with an insurmountable 43-17 advantage.
"We get out early and we have good intensity when we start, (but) when you go into halftime up 20-30 points, it's hard to keep the same intensity," Mann said. "... But yeah, it's a blessing. It's nice to be up early like that, and not have to stress so much."
Against Travis, the Eagles opened the second quarter on a 17-0 run and combined to outscore the Rebels 46-11 in the second and third quarters for the blowout earlier on Friday.
Senior guard Tony Sager led all scorers with 19 points, including 15 during the second and third quarters, to lead four senior Eagles with at least nine points including Tucker (16), Paul Warren (10) and Colton Meiman (9).
Travis struggled with foul trouble all game, racking up 30 in the contest. Salado shot 37 free throws, hitting 28 from the charity stripe.