The Canyon Eagles accept the runner-up trophy after their 46-39 loss to Wichita Falls Hirschi in the Region I-5A final at Lubbock Christian University on Saturday. [Terry Collins/ For Press Pass Sports]
LUBBOCK— After 3 ½ quarters late Saturday afternoon, the Canyon Eagles had seemingly worked their way into a comfortable situation considering the way they’d won their previous two playoff games which came down to the last 10 seconds.
But the ending wasn’t as happy this time, leaving them one win short of a trip to the state tournament.
Canyon rallied from a 10-point deficit to tie Wichita Falls Hirschi after the midway point of the fourth quarter in the Region I-4A final. However, Hirschi scored the next seven points to take momentum of the game for good and held on to beat the Eagles 46-39 at Lubbock Christian University’s Rip Griffin Center.
The Eagles concluded their most successful season in 41 years with a 29-6 record. Hirschi (28-6) will head to San Antonio to participate in the Class 4A state tournament at the Alamodome starting next Friday.
It broke a 14-game winning streak for Canyon, who was the last Amarillo metro team standing this season. It’s symbolic that on a day the Eagles weren’t terribly productive on offense that they still had a chance to win in the final minutes.
“I’m so proud of these dudes, what fight they have,” Canyon coach Travis Schulte said. “We’re down 10 and the next thing you know we’re tied up. I’ve had teams over the years where you get down and you kind of look them in the eye on the bench and deep down inside you might think you’re in some trouble. This crew never looks that way.”
It would have been understandable if the Eagles didn’t show as much spirit in the fourth quarter. They had to fight to beat defending state champion Argyle 38-35 in the previous night’s region semifinal just to get in position to have a shot at state.
Hirschi led 35-25 heading into the fourth quarter, as Ernest Young carried the Huskies with 11 points in the period. With little offense for the Eagles up to that point, it seemed like too steep a hill to climb.
But the Eagles began chipping away, and with 3:24 left, Evan Hughes, who sparked Canyon with a big second half off the bench, scored on a bank shot to conclude a 10-0 run and tie it 37-37. Canyon appeared to have all the momentum.
On Hirschi’s next possession, though, Jermaree Ingram, one of only four players to score for the Huskies, hit a 3-pointer to give his team the lead for good at 40-37. That sparked a 7-0 run by Hirschi, which was broken when Brooks Wagner scored on a short jumper, but it was too little, too late.
“I was telling the guys we could still do this, and eventually we came back to tie it,” said Wagner, a senior who in his final game led the Eagles with 11 points. “Then (the Huskies) got a big shot and it just went from there.
“It’s just pretty special because normally our girls go further than us every year. This year I just think we shocked the whole 806 by making it further than them. I don’t think anyone thought we could do it.”
Offense was hard to come by in the first half, and particularly in the second quarter. Canyon found it especially hard to score, with only four points in the quarter, as Hirschi led 20-15 at halftime.
“Fifteen points at halftime was rough,” Schulte said. “It was such a combination of Hirschi’s defensive pressure. They defend all five spots real well. You can combine that with the fact that we didn’t make shots.”
Canyon had a narrow lead most of the first quarter, but Hirschi rallied to take a 12-11 lead at the end of the period. The Eagles went up 13-12 on a basket by Parker Cunningham, but didn’t score another field goal the rest of the half.
Two players did all the scoring in the first half for Hirschi. Jamarion Carroll was particularly a menace to Canyon, scoring several times on reverse layups as he led all scorers in the first half with 13 points. Young had the other seven points for the Huskies.
Those roles were reversed in the second half, as Young came up with the huge third quarter en route to a game-high 22 points and Carroll finished with 17.
Canyon had little offensive cohesion in the first half. Kemper Jones and Wagner combined to score all of Canyon’s points in the first quarter, but were both shut out in the second quarter.
The 6-foot-6 junior Jones didn’t score at all in the final three quarters, and his fellow 6-6 junior, Chris Bryant, didn’t score from the floor until he scored six points in the fourth quarter to spark Canyon’s rally.
“They’re just physical,” Schulte said of the Huskies. “This is not a knock on the referees whatsoever, but you get to the regional final and it’s big boy basketball. It’s like college basketball, they’re going to swallow those whistles unless it’s a blatant foul.”
This year represented another step forward for the Eagles, who hadn’t made it to the region semifinals since 2003. Schulte is optimistic about the state of things at Canyon.
“I’m super, super excited right now,” Schulte said. “We just won 29 games. (Hirschi’s) the only 4A team we lost to this year. I think that says a lot about where the program is right now.”
Hughes scored 11 off the bench for Canyon.
WF Hirschi 12 20 35 46
Canyon 11 15 25 39
WFH— Ernest Young 22, Jamarion Carroll 17. C— Brooks Wagner 11, Evan Hughes 10. Records: Hirschi 28-6, Canyon 29-6.