Opponents have finally found a sufficient defense for Hico star Cassi Stegall - graduation.
Stegall walking across the stage in May is apparently the only thing that can stop her from torching opposing defenses, as the senior sensation racked up an impressive 2,519 points in her career.
That’s an average of more than 20 points per game. For four straight years.
The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches has taken notice, and recently honored Stegall accordingly - with a spot on its prestigious all-state team.
Stegall, who was named offensive player of the year in District 6-2A, followed up her impressive league run with perhaps the most strongest post season showing by any local individual in the last 20 years - if not longer.
The senior scored 21 points against No. 4 Wall - in the fourth quarter alone.
She had 25 against No. 6 Spearman - just in the second half.
Both games featured stirring comebacks by the Lady Tigers, none bigger than the 15-point second-half deficit they overcame in the regional semifinals against Spearman.
Hico’s season ended the next day, but it was a playoff run that Stegall, her teammates and everyone in Hico will not soon forget.
The senior, who was also named all-region and has been picked for a pair of upcoming all-star games, says she will never forget those 2-3 weeks when the Lady Tigers took the Hico faithful on a thrill ride.
“I couldn’t have asked for more out of my high school career, and I couldn’t have asked for it to end any better,” said Stegall. “Sure it would have been fun to have an easier road to state and get to go, but I think everyone got more out of those two weeks. It was so fun and so dramatic.
“My freshman year, we made it (to the playoffs) but didn’t go that far, and my sophomore year was kind of the perfect storm and we made it farther than ever before,” she added. “My junior year (Cara Finstad, Tristan Till and others) went out with a bang, and then this year was just crazy.”
Stegall will be the first to tell you it was a bold team effort that lifted the Lady Tigers again and again.
“One person does not win a game,” she said. “All of us working hard and working together is what made us successful.”
She recalls the heroics of her teammates as easily as she does her own.
“Claudia (Zuniga) finished the Spearman game for us with free throws,” she recalls. “In the Clyde (and Jim Ned games) Stacey (Underwood) stepped up big or we wouldn’t have won. It was different girls stepping up at different times.”
Underwood, a sophomore center, joins Stegall on the TGCA all-region team. Stegall says watching Underwood’s development the past two seasons has been a great joy.
“It’s been awesome watching her,” Stegall said. “She’s going to do great things. This year just gave her a taste of how good she can be. It’s the same with Blake (Wood) handling the ball, and the other girls. I know they’ll do just as good (next year).”
While Stegall waits to decide the best college suitor - she is currently looking hard at Angelo State, Lubbock Christian and Howard Payne - the magic of the Lady Tigers’ post season run has finally began to set in.
“It’s still crazy. We’ll be at track meets and have people come up to us and tell us how we had a great year,” she said. “I think it’s finally sunk in now. I had to stop and look back because I wasn’t sure how it all happened.”
However it happened, it happened with Cassi’s father - first-year Hico head coach Brad Stegall - right by her side.
“It was really indescribable,” Cassi said of having her father as her coach. “It would have been so different not having him as my coach. It wouldn’t have been the same. It definitely brought us closer together.”
Technically, Stegall still has two more games in her high school career, though they won’t be played for Hico. She’s been invited to the inaugural Texas High School Sports Hall of Fame all-star event, known as the “Texas Shootout,” in Waco May 7, and will also be in the TABC all-star game in San Antonio May 20.
Those events are certain to create their own memories for Stegall, but it’s the Lady Tigers’ four playoff wins - especially the last three - and the teammates and her father she won them with, that she will remember most.
“Those last three, we weren’t supposed to win any of those games,” Stegall said. “We just grew so strong as a team. We’re best friends. A lot of things happened we will never forget. It was the most fun time of my life.”