by Joe Fisher
Eagle Editorial Board
This past weekend the Eagles hosted Fort Worth Nolan in the first round of the TAPPS playoffs. The Reckling Rowdies were in full force while on the other side of the gym a small crowd attended in support of Nolan. This would be the Eagles’ last home game of the season and for the seniors.
The Eagles controlled the first minutes of the game as senior Christian Sanders knocked down three consecutive shots and gave the squad a quick 8-0 lead. The Nolan Vikings stayed grounded though and made some three-pointers to close the gap to 8-6. The Eagles continued their offensive attack and led 18-11 after one quarter.
The squad fell flat in the second quarter as the Vikings held the ball until they had easy scoring opportunities and battled back to take a lead. Numerous questionable calls put the Eagles in foul trouble as Sanders and senior Jeremy King both had two fouls late in the half and the team trailed 26-24 at halftime.
The second half began with the Eagles committing more fouls on questionable calls. They continued to trade baskets with the Vikings though and trailed only 34-32 as the final quarter was set to begin.
Early in the fourth quarter it seemed the Vikings were finally pulling away, but during a timeout Sanders called his teammates together expressing that this was the team’s final home game and a elimination game.
After the spirited talk by Sanders, senior Chase Brogna hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to three. The Vikings bounced back by extending their lead to seven with four minutes remaining in the game.
The Eagles continued to fight back though behind Sanders and were down only two with two minutes remaining, needing just a basket to tie. With just under a minute to play, Sanders drove past his defender towards the basket and while fighting through traffic was able to make the layup and draw the foul. Sanders made the free throw to give the Eagles a one point lead.
On the last possession of the game, the Eagles made a defensive stand as they prevented the Vikings from scoring on multiple chances and won 47-46, as the crowd stormed the court. Sanders finished the game with 27 points, while Brogna had 9.
The following week the Eagles traveled to Columbus high school to face Victoria St. Joseph’s. The Eagles broke out the game with a 15-0 run, which included a monstrous one-handed dunk by King. From there they never looked back as they cruised to 39-11 halftime lead, eventually winning 72-25. Sanders finished the game with 22 points, while sophomore Joshua Reece had eight and Brogna had seven.
For a second consecutive year, the team has reached the state tournament, which consists of the final four teams. It has meant a lot for the team to reach this point once again.
“For us to go to the state tournament again is a huge step in our goal of repeating,” said Brogna. “Knowing that we are the underdogs once again has made us work even harder to get another chance at winning a state championship. The feeling is amazing and we look forward to bringing back a state trophy.”
This past weekend the Eagles played in a state semi-final matchup against the 13th ranked team in the country, Plano Prestonwood, who have the second ranked junior in the country in Julius Randle. St. Thomas had upset Prestonwood in the championship game last year. This year, the Eagles were huge underdogs, but it did not affect the team’s mentality of winning another state championship.
In the first quarter the Eagles were down early as Randle bursted through two of King’s blocks to score layups, but Sanders kept them within striking distance as he made a three-pointer and a couple two-pointers, but were down 15-7 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Eagles were unable to make substantial ground on Prestonwood’s lead, as the teams exchanged baskets and were down 27-18 at the half.
At the start of the third quarter, Brogna knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to six, and the Eagles, defensively, stopped Prestonwood on multiple possessions in the opening minutes but were unable to score again until Prestonwood had a maintained double digit lead.
In the final quarter of the game the Eagles continued to fight but to no avail, losing 51-39. Sanders, playing in his final high school game, finished with 25 points, while Brogna had five.
Despite the loss, the Eagles had a great season, finishing with a record of 25-12 which included a fourth consecutive district championship, and a trip to the state tournament for the second year in a row.
With nine seniors graduating, the Eagles will look for Reece, sophomore Jamie Keating and junior P.J. Pane to fill big shoes and will need a big man to occupy the paint.