BROCK - Hico's Brad Stegall would have loved to begin his head coaching career with a win, but settled instead for a loss that left him and his No. 20 Lady Tigers basketball team with their heads held high Tuesday.
Two-time defending state champion Brock flexed its defensive muscle and all but erased Hico's running game, and six-foot post Paige Parliament took care of the rest as the Lady Eagles soared 44-30 in the season opener for both teams.
Parliament, who says she has committed to Abilene Christian, scored 25 points. She got Brock jumpstarted with 10 in the first quarter, then took on the role of closer with 11 in the fourth.
She scored Brock's first 10 points and helped the Lady Eagles overcome an early 8-4 Hico advantage. Brock, ranked No. 1 in both the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason polls, led 12-8 after one.
The Lady Eagles slowly stretched the advantage, leading 24-15 at halfime and 33-20 after three quarters before their senior leader took over again in the fourth.
Parliament's final field goal seemed seal the win for Brock, which led 42-25 with just under three minutes left. She hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to finish the scoring after Hico netted five straight.
Six-foot, three-inch sophomore Stacey Underwood guarded Parliament most of the night, something Stegall called a growing experience.
"This was good for Stacey. I'm sure she grew up a lot out there tonight," Stegall said. "It was good for her to realize early what it's like to battle a girl like that for four quarters."
Cassi Stegall had 17 for Hico, most coming on aggressive drives to the basket. She converted three old-fashion 3-point plays, and was a perfect 7-7 at the charity stripe. The four-year letter winner got off to a slow start, hitting just a pair of free throws in the opening quarter before scoring five points in each of the final three periods.
"They did a good job of sagging off and helping (on Cassi), but she did everything she could," Coach Stegall said. "They play great defense, probably the best we'll see all season."
The Lady Tigers, who return four starters from last seaon's 25-6 area finalists and no longer share a region with powerful Brock, Peaster and Winnsboro, used their trademark full-court pressure to jump out to an early edge before Parliament took over.
"The first few minutes I felt like we had them on their heels a little bit," Stegall said. "But they made some adjustments and did a good job."
The Lady Eagles forced the Lady Tigers out of their press late in the opening quarter, shifting the momentum to their side.
"Brock is No. 1 in the state for a reason," said Stegall. "We got a lot of things out of being in this game that we never could have got out of a practice. Hopefully this makes us a better basketball team."
The Lady Tigers return to action at home against Eastland at 4 p.m. Friday.