Brad Keith

Sports Editor

They talk about football being king of the state and area sports scenes, and I suppose it always will be.

But 2010-11 should go down as the academic sports year in which basketball was truly king in the Cross Timbers.

I’m not just talking high school and I’m not just talking Stephenville.

From Tarleton State University’s NCAA Division II teams all the way down to the smallest of the two 1A schools covered regularly by the Empire-Tribune, it was a special year on the hardwood.

It was a year that saw one girls team - Hico - come one step from the state tournament under a first-year head coach - Brad Stegall - whose senior daughter - Cassi Stegall, as if she needs any introduction at this point - led her team and community on a wild ride full of last-minute heroics.

Two boys teams - Hico and Huckabay - made regional tournament trips, Hico for the first time ever and Huckabay for the second time under 10th-year head coach Dean Edwards.

Hico coach Drew Coffman is probably as good a candidate as any for 2A coach of the year honors. Remember, the Tigers had never won more than 19 games in a season before Coffman arrived. He’s finished three years at HHS now, and his teams are 61-9 over the last two including 35-4 this year.

Stephenville had a break-out year in boys ball, returning to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and coming an eye lash from the 20-win plateau. The Jackets lose only one starter and have strong JV and freshman teams coming up.

Dublin returned to the playoffs and Lingleville enjoyed its best season in 26 years.

While the boys were rocking, so were the men, as Tarleton State won its first Lone Star Conference South Division title since 2006. The Texans were ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation at one point this year, and had an 11-game win streak. They were a perfect 15-0 at home and put veteran head coach Lonn Reisman in position to celebrate his 500th win - all at Tarleton - early next season.

The Texans fell in the regional quarterfinals to Midwestern State, a team they had defeated three times. They were better than Midwestern - and all of the tough LSC South - for all but the final 12 minutes of their season.

The girls also broke loose. Cassi Stegall’s heroics and the development of sophomore center Stacey Underwood led Hico deeper into the post season than any area high school team has gone since 1992 when Dublin’s girls reached the state semifinals.

Stegall scored 21 points in the fourth quarter when the Lady Tigers upset No. 4 Wall in the area round and Underwood had 22 including a key late 3-pointer when they knocked off No. 5 Jim Ned in the regional quarterfinals.

Stegall did it again in the regional semis, scoring 25 in the second half to lead Hico back from a 15-point deficit to defeat No. 6 Spearman the night before the Lady Tigers’ season ended in a loss to a San Saba team they had defeated twice in district play.

Stephenville’s girls beat the foe the entire community wanted to see taken down most - Aledo. And the Bees did it in grand fashion, taking the No. 4 Lady Cats out in overtime of an area-round playoff game.

SHS won its second straight area championship before once again running into a buzz saw in the regional quarterfinal round.

With an undefeated JV team, good freshman clubs and heavy contributions from three sophomores on its varsity team, the Bees look to be one of those buzz saws in future seasons.

Huckabay’s girls won their first district title in 11 years, then stacked an area championship on top of it.

All Tarleton’s women managed was their best season since joining the NCAA 17 years ago. The TexAnns won their first LSC divisional title, posted their first NCAA Tournament win and won more games (25) than any Tarleton team since the school joined the NCAA in 1994-95.

Tarleton had only two active seniors during the post season. The TexAnns return the bulk of their team as the program continues to burst onto the national scene.

It was a big year in basketball, one all local communities got to enjoy in one way or another.

Football is still the king, but my hat goes off to all our area hoop clubs for their hard work and outstanding achievements over the past five months.

It was truly a roundball season to remember, and for several area programs, one that may have set up many good seasons to come.