The road to San Antonio begins in November. While many sports fans in the Big Country are more focused on the football playoffs and Christmas shopping as 2022 winds down, high school basketball teams in the Big Country are spending November and December playing non-district games and tournaments in preparation for what they hope will be a trip to San Antonio.
The University Interscholastic League boys and girls state basketball tournaments are in March at the Alamodome in San Antonio. District playa begins in earnest in January. But the work begins now.
It is tough to make it to the state tournament. Teams have to first finish among the top four in their district, then they have to win three playoff games just to reach the regional tournament. It takes two more victories at the regional tourney to earn that coveted trip to San Antonio.
The Stamford girls were the only Big Country team to make it to the state tournament last year, losing to unbeaten Gruver in the Class 2A state championship game. The Lady Bulldogs graduated four seniors from that outstanding team that finished 36-3. But 5’9” senior Laylonna Applin, who made the Class 2A all-state tournament team, does return for Stamford.
District 10-2A, which includes Stamford, Cisco, Haskell, Hamlin, Anson, Hawley and Albany should be one of the most entertaining district races for both boys and girls. Both appear to feature balanced races.
Another team that could make a bid to get to San Antonio is the Jim Ned girls. Coach Hunter Cooley returns four starters from last year’s team that posted a 33-2 mark and advanced to the Class 3A regional semifinals.
Some other things to keep an eye on:
- The win totals for respected Eastland boys basketball coach Doug Galyean, who is a cancer survivor: Galyean coached for 15 years at Eastland, then retired. But he came back five years ago to coach the Mavericks again and last season topped 700 wins in his remarkable career.
- New faces in new places: As always, there are a number of coaching changes. The most interesting move was Duane Hopper, who posted a 135-51 record in five years at Class 1A Hermleigh and twice took the Lady Cardinals to the state tournament. Hopper, a standout player at Abilene Wylie and Hardin-Simmons University, was hired back at his alma mater to take over Wylie’s Class 5A girls basketball program.
- Other new faces in new places include Brandon Hudson, who is the new girls basketball coach at Abilene Cooper. Jamie Masonheimer has moved from Clyde to Hawley as the Lady Bearcats’ basketball coach. And Clyde has two new coaches – Dean Edwards for the boys and Reagan Sewell for the girls. There are other new coaches around the area, too.
Of course, the beauty of high school basketball is the surprises. What unexpected teams will emerge as a contender for a deep playoff runs?
Our second annual winter basketball edition of Varsity Preview will hopefully give you a preview of the Big Country boys and girls basketball teams as they begin their quest for a trip to San Antonio.