By BRAD KEITH
HICO (December 27, 2017) — Brad Stegall must have spent 2017 avoiding being naughty and focusing on the nice.
Everything the Hico girls basketball coach has wished to see on the court this season has come true.
The Lady Tigers (18-1), ranked No. 7 in Conference 2A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, took a 14-game win streak into the Christmas break and look to extend it in tournament play this weekend at Eula.
Hico begins its action there at 11:10 a.m. Thursday against 3A Ballinger.
The Lady Tigers are outscoring opponents by 30 points per game and have held 15 of 19 opponents below 30 points. They surrender 28 per game, and that includes holding then-No. 5 Tenaha to 27 and then-No. 9 Wellington to 29, both on neutral courts.
“I feel good about where we’re at. Really, we’re a good fourth quarter away from the one being an ‘O,'” said Stegall of a narrow tournament loss to 4A No. 6 Brownwood in San Saba early in the season.
Marissa Warren is scoring 20.3 points per game while sophomore Lauryl Stegall is near a double-double at 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds.
“She’s trying to get the rebounds up there so she can average a double-double,” said Coach Stegall of niece Lauryl. “Ten rebounds is a lot in a 32-minute game, but she’s doing great as a sophomore.”
With 4.5 steals per contest, Shelby Polk headlines the fearsome pressure defense that has been paramount to the team’s success. Wichita Falls Hirschi is a playoff regular in Conference 4A and is known for its full-court pressure, yet it paled in comparison to what the Lady Tigers had in store for Hirschi on December 8, pouring 80 points through the net in a rout.
“I’ve had some good teams here, and there have been years we have had one or two just really good players,” said Stegall, who has guided Hico as far as the regional finals, one win from advancing to the state tournament. “But this here, I think this is the best (starting) five I have ever had.”
Hico finished second in Eula last year, falling only to 1A state champ and perennial powerhouse Nazareth, which is not returning to defend its title. Still, Stegall says it won’t be easy.
“Ballinger has beat a lot of teams this year, so we’re expecting a tough one right out the gate,” he said. “We’re coming right out of the Christmas break with no practice so we’ll see how it goes.”
Hico has its first big district test at home on January 5 when county rival Hamilton comes calling. They are both 3-0 in district play.
“That will be a big one, no doubt,” he said. “We’ll establish a district front-runner that day for sure.”
If Hamilton can keep up.
So far this season, no 2A team has come close.